The Right Beer For BBQ

photo by Mark Marnell
photo by Mark Marnell

A regular sunny day can easily entice a home grown chef to break out the "cooker", light up the grill and dive into meat madness. Barbecuing is like a religion to many and when you complement the experience with beer, it is a recipe for olfactory Nirvana. Whether BBQ means grilling or to southern style juicy, smoked, spice rubbed and saucy meats, there is always a beer choice that can help to compliment all the backyard bliss you can handle.

Lighter meats with milder beer

Poultry, pork and fish dishes pair best with beers that are lighter in color, spiced qualities and alcohol levels. If the poultry or pork is highly spiced, if the fish is high in oil, if you have beef or wild game or if you are going for the saucy and spicy smoked BBQ meats, then you will need a "stronger" beer, that is higher in alcohol levels, hops, spices or malt character.

Most Americans still prefer an American style lager or pilsner for their warm weathered patio parties. Lagers are great options for grilled chicken, pork, seafood and hamburgers. When grilling octopus, chicken breasts and pork chops, regardless of marinades, consider 2017 NY International Beer Competition gold medal winning lagers like Stevens Point Special Lager and Full Sail Session Black Lager, silver medal winner Czechvar or bronze medal winner Sixpoint The Crisp. These have the clean, light sweet malt notes and a bit of spice from mostly noble hops to accentuate the subtle flavors of lighter meats without overpowering them.

If you are grilling tuna or swordfish steaks, coat them in herbed aioli and finish them with a glass of a dry saison, an age old Belgian farmhouse ale that has woodsy, earthy and zesty yeast notes that are commonly flavored with peppercorns, citrus and many other herbs. Good examples can be found in 2017 NYIBC gold medal winner The Exchange Brewery Peppercorn Rye Saison with the rye adding additional spicy malt notes, C.H. EvansBrewing's Lemon Verbena Saison and Soigné Belgian Saison made with local honey, tellicherry peppercorns and cherry puree by the Brooklyn Brewery at the Culinary Institute of America.

photo by Mark Marnell
photo by Mark Marnell

Red meats with darker beer

If you feel like a nicely marbled rib-eye steak, then opt for a smooth and bittersweet double IPA. You can counterpoint the rich fatty beef flavors with beers like 2017 NYIBC silver medal winner Sixpoint Hi-Res DIPA, high in alcohol and rich in citrus, dank, tropical and floral hop flavors and Rushing Duck War Elephant DIPA with hops that evoke various citrus and tropical fruits along with wisps of pine.

Smoky flavors with barrel aged brew

If it is genuine smoky southern BBQ, try a big bourbon barrel aged beer like 2017 NYIBC gold medal winner Innis & Gun Bourbon Aged Scotch Ale or silver medal winning Full Sail BB aged Imperial Stout. These beers possess heavy bourbon, vanilla, caramel and chocolate notes to offset and balance the pepper, smoky and saucy flavors from the brisket and pork.

So what are you waiting for? Let's get grilling!