Is there anything better than the combination of beer and barbecue? Pairing smoked and grilled meats with chilled beers is a backyard tradition that has been a crowd pleaser for centuries. While the sheer variety of combinations may seem intimidating, a few tidbits of knowledge will help steer you in the right direction and before you know it, you’ll be confident enough to throw a beer and BBQ fest your friends and family will never forget.
Think local when deciding which brews to serve at your barbecue. Pay a visit to your local brewery and pick out a variety of their seasonal offerings for your guests to enjoy. Brewmasters will help steer you in the right direction as to which beer and food pairings might work best. You can also take your support of the community to the next level by buying your meats from local butcher shops and vegetables from your favorite farmer’s market.
Get Creative in the Kitchen
Take your culinary concoctions to the next level by integrating beer into your cooking. From brining and basting your meat in beer to making your own beer-based sauces, there are plenty of recipes that will help you think outside the box. Beer-based barbecue sauces are also hugely popular but prone to staining surfaces, so be sure to have chair covers at the ready when prepping and serving. And if any of these innovative kitchen ideas end up being fan favorites, you can use them again when preparing to throw a happy harvest feast.
The last thing you want is for your beerfest guests to feel restricted in their choices, so it’s important to let them explore their options. The simplest way to put this goal into action is to set up buffet style serving stations that allow your guests to pick and choose their plates. Put your picnic table covers to the side and spread out your selection for guests to peruse. Serving up sample sizes of each beer and meat combination is an easy way to allow guests to enjoy a plethora of plates without overindulging. Once they’ve made their selections, they can relax and enjoy your inventive pairings knowing they won’t make a mess thanks to your addition of sectional covers.
Every type of meat has its own unique taste and the same can be said for beer. Grill masters and brewmasters alike have dedicated their time to fine-tuning the art of meat and beer pairings, and their findings allow even the most novice barbecue enthusiasts to get in on the action:
- Burgers: These cookout classics pair well with just about any beer but hit it off best with Porters. The smoky, dark notes of a porter complement the char of a grilled burger like a dream.
- Sausages: A German style wurst calls for a German style lager. The malty notes of a lager balance perfectly with the acidity found in sauerkrauts and relishes, while the sweetness of an Oktoberfest beer pairs perfectly with milder sausages such as weisswurst.
- Ribs: The complex sauce of a BBQ rib is best paired with dark, rich beers like Dunkelweizens and Doppelbocks. If you plan on offering multiple sauces options, be sure to have a variety of complementing beers on hand.
- Fish: Barbecued seafood is an unconventional but delicious choice that deserves a unique beer pairing. Serve up some refreshing Pilsners to go with your lighter seafood dishes.
No matter what meat you’re throwing on the grill, your choice of sauce adds a whole new level of flavor. Thankfully, there are more sauce and beer combinations than you can shake a stick at, and while there’s countless varieties of BBQ sauces, we’ve narrowed it down to a few favorites:
- Texas Sauce: The strong, tomato-based sauce with hints of garlic calls for a light Blonde Ale to balance out the intense, spice-heavy flavor frequently used on barbecued briskets.
- Kansas City Style: This BBQ favorite is known for its sweet notes and molasses-like texture. Pair with a well-balanced German Dunkel for the perfect combination of hoppy and sweet. Be warned that this thick sauce can leave quite a stain, so don’t forget to keep your chair covers on right up until the table’s set and your guests are ready to dig in.
- Memphis Sauce: With a tangy flavor and thinner consistency than other regional sauces, a Memphis style BBQ deserves a thick, malty beer pairing. Opt for an English-style Porter to balance out the vinegar notes found in the sauce.
Don’t Neglect the Veggies
For all of the meat lovers attending your cookout, it’s important to keep your vegetarian guests in mind. While the list of beer and meat combos is seemingly endless, there are a number of beers that accompany vegetable dishes just as well. Beer experts suggest steering clear of serving bitter beers alongside vegetable dishes, and instead opting for earthy, citrusy flavors. Your meat-free guests will be delighted to indulge in a floral German Pilzer or a light Amber ale with their grilled veggies. After removing your picnic table covers, be sure to set up a special vegetarian station that features these delicious combinations.