BBQ Beer & Food Pairing Guide

April 03, 2012

Beer & Mustard, Beer & Seafood - these are just a couple of the ideas you'll find here for the start of grilling season

With grilling season rapidly approaching barbecues of all sizes and shapes will be firing up to partake in some fine grilling and, of course, some malt beverages to go with them. However, pairing the right beer with the right food can make all the difference in the world between having a good barbecue and a great one.

“Most people seem to know what wine goes with what foods, but few people know the specific rules of what beers go with what foods,” says Chris Vicioso, chef at Bernardus Lodge in California’s Carmel Valley.

"For instance, a flavorful dark beer compliments all cuts of steak, pork, game, lamb, potatoes, cooked vegetables... pretty much anything off the BBQ. The rich and sharp flavor of the ale compliments the sweet and smooth flavor of meat, especially BBQ meat, hitting all areas of the palate.

The crisp taste of BBQ food smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce partners nicely with the rich and smooth flavor of a brown ale such as Newcastle,” suggests Vicioso. “The brown ale flavor compliments the sweet BBQ sauce and really makes the taste buds go wild.”

Another renowned chef, David Burke of David Burke & Donatella in New York, offers similar observations.

“Chefs are incorporating more unique ingredients in their recipes from purveyors across the world, that often overpower the taste of wine," he says. "Most diners don't recognize that the taste and complexity of beer often enhances the taste of food better than a wine.”

Some beer-food pairings suggested for summer grilling parties:

Beer & Mustard – a great compliment for dark ale are foods or sauces with mustard. The tangy and sour note of mustard melds with the hops acidity in beer, and is balanced by the thick malt residual sugars in ales.

Beer & Cheese – not many folks realize that beer and cheese have far more in common than wine and cheese. Both are simple and nutritious, and carefully nurtured in an ancient fermentation process. Semi-soft cheeses, Muenster, Gouda, Havarti, Tilsit, Liederkranz, Port Salut, American, Colby, Monterey Jack and similar cheeses all go well with more energetic and flavorful beers such as English brown ales.

Beer & Seafood – beer is used to steam clams and mussels and other shellfish, popular dishes for the summer time.

Beer & Chili – beer adds an incredible amount of flavor to a thick chili with meat and spices – another great summer recipe.

Beer & Brats – a popular recipe, but not often used with dark ales, is brats and beer. As with other meats the richer flavor of the dark ale adds to the overall taste of the brat. Spread a spiced mustard on the cooked brat and the flavor of the dark ale really comes to life.

“Beer and brats isn’t a revolutionary idea, but there are definitely new takes on the old favorite,” explains Vicioso. “Most of the time brats are boiled in a light beer, and although it gets the job done, boiling in a dark beer adds flavor. Boiling beer brings out the hops and malt accents, making it that much more flavorful when it hits your tongue.”