BBQ and Beer Pairings
Some things just go together, like peas and carrots. You also have your Kick Ash Can and Kick Ash Basket, for example. Then, there is beer and BBQ. Nothing sounds like a better time than enjoying the two of these together! With so many kinds of beers out there, though, it might be hard to find the exact one that will go best with your meal. Let us be your guide!
BBQ Beer Guide
So perhaps you’ve already got the beer but aren’t sure what to eat it with. We have a few recommendations. Let’s first take a look at the types of beer you can find at a BBQ, from the lightest to the darkest beers.
Irish Red Ale
Also called an American Pilsner, this beer has medium-to-high carbonation, a malt taste, a light body, and a dry finish. It pairs well with chicken, salad, seafood, and fried foods.
Blonde Ales are known for their mild malt sweetness, low bitterness, light body, and dry finish. This beer pairs well with sweet or spicy flavors. It goes with grilled seafood, lobster mac and cheese, and fried chicken.
A Hefeweizen is fruity, with low bitterness, high carbonation, and a medium body. It pairs well with pork, light seafood, salads, and cream sauces. Pork adds richness to the beer while balancing its salt and acidity.
With medium hops and a medium-to-dry finish, aromatic or spicy flavors work well with a Pale Ale. This beer pairs well with burgers.
IPAs are known for their pronounced hops and medium-to-dry finish. They pair well with charcoal-cooked red meat. Beef brisket or grilled lamb are other great food choices when drinking IPAs.
Well-balanced hops and malt, along with caramel richness, define the Amber Ale. The medium mouthfeel with a dry and crisp finish make Amber Ales a good accompaniment to heavy meals. This beer pairs well with slow-cooked, smoky red meat. Try it with sandwiches, grilled cheese, and burgers.
Irish Red Ale
An Irish Red Ale features a toasted malt and medium-sweet caramel flavor. Its clean, dry finish goes well with beef, pork, and BBQ.
Brown Ales traditionally have a mid-to-high malt flavor and low hops. Hints of caramel, chocolate, toffee, and nutty flavors are found in its medium-to-dry finish. A Brown Ale goes well with hearty foods; it pairs universally, but especially well with BBQ chicken, grilled salmon, and smoked sausage.
Moderate roasted-malt taste with hints of chocolate flavor point to a Porter. This beer goes well with rich and deep flavors like meatloaf, blackened fish, beef BBQ and braised beef. It is best to pair it with foods that have a similar taste and texture.
A Stout is known for its strong-roasted malt with hints of coffee, chocolate, and caramel. It pairs well with charcoal-smoked game or red meat. You need to pair it with something that stands up to its intensity. Good pairing choices would be beef, BBQ ribs, or a Bleu Cheese and Bacon Burger.
Recommended BBQ and Beer Pairings
Do you already have your meal picked out, and now just need the perfect beer? We can help with that. Here are some of our favorite beer recommendations to go along with what you’ve got on the grill:
BBQ Burgers and Beer
To go along with a deliciously-juicy burger, we suggest a Pale Ale, IPA, or Pale Lager (aka American Pilsner). The classic beef burger already hits a lot of different flavor notes, like salty (meat and cheese), sour (pickles and mustard), umami (meat), and sweet (ketchup). One note that the burger is missing, though, is bitterness. It is important to pair the burger with a beer that is equally-intensely flavorful and brings a bitter note. Pale Ales and IPAs are therefore good choices, and they often also bring a few citrus notes along for the ride. Another approach to beer pairing would be to pick a beer that lets the beef flavor come through. A good choice in this case would be a Pale Lager, because it is light enough to let you taste the complexities of burger flavor, but it also has a dry finish which primes your palette for a second bite.
BBQ Beef and Beer
When it comes to beef, we don’t mess around. We have recommendations for all your steak favorites:
Steakburger: If you are serving up a steakburger, how about a nice Smoked Porter? It will nicely enhance the steak flavor, but will not overpower it.
Top Sirloin: The fruity undertones of a Pale Ale work well with this flavorful cut.
Prime Rib: Prime rib and Amber Ale are often seen together. Sweet and rich Amber Ales are sometimes incorporated into marinades or homemade BBQ sauces that accompany prime rib or short ribs.
Hanger: We like it with a lightly-roasted Brown Ale.
Ribeye: IPAs have fruity undertones that contradict their bitterness, and the malt flavor breaks through the fattiness of the ribeye. IPAs are often used on marinades for ribeyes.
Filet Mignon: Light Lagers tend to enhance the flavor of filet mignon, rather than overpower it.
BBQ Chicken and Beer
Since chicken doesn’t necessarily have an overbearing flavor, it is helpful to pair a beer that is more subtle rather than overpowering. It is also important to consider any sauces that will be accompanying your meal, as they will play into the dance of flavor. For a classic grilled chicken breast with a bit of BBQ sauce, we would recommend a beer that was brewed using crystal malts. These would include Amber Ales, Brown Ales, and Dark Lagers. Crystal malts give off a sweet and nutty flavor, which goes great with barbecue.
BBQ Seafood and Beer
Beers with lower IBUs work well with the delicate taste of seafood. These would include Pilsners and Lagers. We think that the bitterness of the Pilsner nicely balances the sweet oiliness of seafood. Grilled salmon pairs with Pale Ales or Brown Ales. The malt from Pale Ales cut through the fatty salmon, and the sweetness of the Brown Ale complements the char from grilled salmon.
BBQ Lamb and Beer
Since lamb has a strong flavor, it is wise to pair it with something equally as strong. Heavy and complex pairings would include a strong Ale, a malty Stout, or a Porter. If you are a fan of hoppy flavor, we would recommend a black IPA. The bitterness of its roasted malt plays well with lamb’s umami flavor. If you are preparing lamb ribs, we think a Stout would work best.
BBQ Pork and Beer
When pondering what beer goes well with pork, it is important to consider the sauces and spices in the meal. If you are going for dry-rub pork ribs that are lacking sauce, we would go with a Hefeweizen. This beer is sweet and not overpowering. If you are going for saucy molasses-drenched pork ribs, we would pair it with a Stout, a nice sweet yet dry dark beer. When having a chill BBQ with hot dogs and other sausages, we really enjoy a good German beer, like an Amber or Brown Lager.
Beer BBQ Sauce
You really can’t go wrong with beer and BBQ, so why not combine your favorite flavors into a BBQ sauce? Serve it with the meat of your choice, incorporating one of the complimentary beers listed above. Here is our favorite Beer BBQ Sauce recipe:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons diced onions
1 Can tomato paste (6 oz.)
4 Teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ Cup apple cider vinegar
1 Can plum tomatoes (28 oz.)
½ Cup of your favorite beer pairing
Instructions: In a saucepan over medium heat, cook olive oil, garlic, and onions until fragrant, or about 2 minutes. Incorporate tomato paste, brown sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in apple cider vinegar, and let simmer for 1 minute. Then add the canned tomatoes and beer, and blend in with an immersion blender. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will have thickened and flavors blended.
After all that pondering, and you decided to go with wine instead? Have a look at our wine and meat pairing guide. Cheers!