BBQ & Brews: Your Pairing Guide for National Barbecue Month

Mmmmmmm, can you smell it? There’s nothing quite like the savory aroma of food being cooked over a fire. Whenever someone in my neighborhood is cooking out, I immediately want to run over and chow down. Whether it’s chicken or steak or shrimp, or even a Fred Flintstone Brontosaurus burger, I’ll take it. And we all know that a frothy, cold beer goes hand in hand with any deliciousness cooked up on the grill.  So let’s explore some craft beer and barbecue pairings for one of the tastiest months of the year—National Barbecue Month! (Who knew there was such a month? I like it. A lot.)

Let’s start with the (in my opinion) best-smelling-while-it’s-cooking meat. Because steak is hearty with rich flavor, it pairs well with heavier beers that will help enhance the beefy taste. The darker, smoked malts used in porters create a roasted flavor that pairs perfectly with a decadent grilled steak. Stouts have similar qualities, and are also a good choice.

Porters to try: Smuttynose Robust Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter

Okay, let’s be honest…you can pair ANY beer with a rich, juicy, cheesy burger and it will be heavenly. Whether it’s lamb, bison or a good ol’ hamburger, beer is a legendary partner and anything goes. But for the sake of this post, I’m going with a hipster fave, an IPA. IPAs are moderate to medium-bodied with herbal and/or citric character, and are known for their bitter aroma and flavor, enhancing any meaty taste.

IPAs to try: Stone IPA, Founders All Day IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

Ahhhh yes, chicken. It’s the go-to food of many, many backyard neighborhood barbecue gatherings. This versatile poultry can be prepared so many ways (BBQ sauce, teriyaki, lemon garlic, and the list goes on), but no matter what your type of preparation is, I love chicken paired with a saison. Fruity in aroma and flavor, with mild to moderate tartness and hints of spice, saisons (also known as farmhouse ales) will offset the mild taste of chicken.

Saisons to Try: Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

From shrimp to Mahi to salmon, I’m going to pair grilled seafood with one of my all-time favorite types of craft beer—Hefeweizen. This wheat beer is fragrant and refreshing, with hints of cloves and spice that is the perfect accompaniment to light seafood fare. And better yet—the tart nature of the beer makes it a delightful “BBQ-time” summer brew.

Hefeweizens to try: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Troegs DreamWeaver Wheat, Yuengling Summer Wheat

Not a fan of meat? I have a vegetarian daughter, so I get it. As an experienced vegetable chef (okay, who I am kidding, my husband is the cook of the family), he can grill the heck out of some potatoes, corn, mushrooms, peppers… you name it. Lots of great options for beer pairings, but I love the flavor of a red ale with veggies. Red ales (also amber ales) are known for their notes of caramel and toffee malt, slightly roasted grains and low hop presence, perfect for pairing with savory grilled vegetables.

Red/Amber Ales to try: Ballast Point California Amber, Lagunitas Lucky 13, Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale

Looking to pair other types of food? Check out my super handy Craft Beer and Food Pairings Chart, guaranteed to help you out. So, spark up the grill (yes, I’m a charcoal girl), ice up some brews, kick back and savor the smells and flavors of National Barbecue Month. You will be the hit of the neighborhood. And as always, drink what tastes good! Cheers!

Photo creds: Drinksfeed, The Wicked Noodle, Serious Eats, Life Food & Beer

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