A BEER FOR ALL SEASONINGS

It’s grilling season! Few phrases get me more excited than these three words. Now that we’ve revved things up, let’s discuss how beer and barbecue belong together like lovers in a Cialis commercial.

Barbecue means different things to different people. For some, throwing any meat on any grill constitutes barbecuing. Others say barbecue requires low, indirect heat and excruciatingly slow cooking. For our purposes, let’s use the first definition. Meat (or veggies, if that’s your thing) cooked on a grill is ’Q to us! And nothing goes with grilled food better than cold beer. But which beer goes best with each food? I have some ideas.

Perhaps the most commonly grilled food is the humble hamburger. Finding a beer to match this culinary equivalent of Nirvana may seem simple. Many of you will just grab an IPA. I disagree. The hoppy bitterness will provide a wonderful foil for the burger’s flavors, but a beer with a bit of smokiness will really make it sing. Try a black IPA, smoked porter or regular porter. You’ll thank me.

Throw a marbled ribeye on the grate above the coals and magic happens. A rich cut deserves a rich beer, so a stout that’s black as midnight and thick as motor oil is just the ticket. The dark, roasty flavors are a perfect contrast to the char crust the steak develops on the grill. Leaner cuts like New York strip or hanger steak tend to be milder in flavor and thus benefit from milder beers, like brown ales.

There are several ways to grill chicken. The usual method is the straightforward, throw-it-on-the-grid style, slapping some thick tomato-based sauce on it. The crispy, umami flavor of the skin, slathered with sweet, tangy sauce begs for a rich lager like dunkel or even a crisp, refreshing Vienna. For those who like their fowl a bit fancier, with citrus juices and herbs, I recommend grassy, herbal saison. If you go for a spicy jerk bird, you’ll want something to cool the fire. Look for a helles lager to soothe the burn.

In my hometown of St. Louis, barbecue means one thing: Boston butt pork steaks cooked crispy then glazed with sweet sauce. My father taught me to baste the steaks with beer to add yet another amazing layer of flavor. To others, pulled pork or ribs are the order of the day. No matter how you like it, pair your pork with wee heavy. This Scotch ale, made with smoked peat malt, is reminiscent of single-malt with its sweet, dark fruit and earthy flavors.

No matter how you define barbecue, let’s all agree that good things happen when meat meets fire. Here are a few brews to pair with charred meat.

Orkney Skull Splitter Wee Heavy
Creamy, smooth and full of fruity goodness, this heavyweight (8.5 percent ABV) elevates pork to barbecue Valhalla.

Leinenkugel’s Helles Yeah
Bright and citrusy, this Wisconsin version of the German style is a great companion to spicy chicken dishes.

Intuition Ale Works King Street Stout
Local and full-on delicious, this stout’s a natural companion to a rich, thick steak.

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