Well, it’s that time of year again: after a long winter, the covers are coming off those grills. And along with grilling summer foods comes the pleasurable task of choosing good beers to go along with them. For hot weather, many folks immediately think of the Hefeweizen style (if you do, go with Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis) … squeeze a lemon wedge in it and it becomes summer in a glass. However, if you limit yourself to just this style, you’ll miss out when it comes to your next barbecue.
No matter what regional style of barbecue you eat, there are some constants: smokiness, heat, sweetness and sometimes sour flavors. Depending on what you and your friends are grilling, here are some suggestions for beers you may want to try:
India Pale Ale (IPA) – I’ll be honest, I may be a little biased since this is one of my favorite styles of beer. IPAs tend to be a bit higher in alcohol than standard pale ales and have a very pronounced hop flavor, which can be slightly bitter. They were originally made in England and shipped to India, hence the name, so they were intended to be consumed in hot climates.
As the bitterness rolls over the tongue, it really brings out a food’s flavors, especially spicy ones. A few of my favorites are Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Avery’s Maharaja and Magic Hat’s Blind Faith.
Rauchbier – If you like a smoky taste, you may want to try a “smoked” beer, known as Rauchbier in Germany. The beer style gets its smoky flavor from using malted barley that has either been dried over a fire or smoked in some manner. The styles can range from medium-bodied beers all the way to rich dark porters and stouts.
This smoky flavor pairs very well with ribs or brisket you’ve been smoking for hours. Hands down, my favorites are Schlenkerla’s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen and Urbock. In the United States, Alaska Brewing Company was the first brewery to offer a smoked variety, and their 2008 or 2009 Smoked Porter is still one of the best.
Belgian Style – When most people think of Belgian beer, they think of the abbey style, which is a full beer better paired with a stew during the cold days of winter and not one you want to be drinking while grilling outdoors.
On the other hand, the Belgian pale ale and saison styles do work very well with grilled and barbecued dishes. Not only are they much lighter, but they also typically have hints of citrus that allow them to pair nicely with lighter fare, whether it be Grilled Salmon with Mango-Cucumber Salsa, mussels or other shellfish. A couple of my favorites are Goose Island’s Sofie and Matilda and The Lost Abbey’s Carnavale.
What beers do you like to drink with barbecue? Tell us in the comments below!
About the author: Dennis Ayles, from Inventory Management, is our resident beer expert here at Williams-Sonoma. He keeps everyone up to speed on the latest trends, his favorite brews and what we should be drinking.