5 Beer & BBQ Pairing Guide Tips
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, Peteer

Barbecue and beer have a special relationship—a sort of “bromance,” if you will. It’s no wonder that two such amazing things should blend well, but are you serving the best beer with your barbecue? Just like pairing a fine wine with an elegant entrée, choosing the right brew for your ‘cue means making the most of the flavors of each. Here we break it down for you, so you’ll know what to serve with your barbecue ribs at your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party.

The key to selecting the right beer to pair with your BBQ is to focus on your sauce. The sauce tends to be the boldest part of the meal and dominates the flavor profile. So even if you’re switching up your meat selection, you can use this beer & BBQ pairing guide to choose your beer accompaniment.

1. Smoky Texas Barbecue: Choose A Beer with A Dark Flavor. Pair this BBQ with a beer that will enhance the smoky flavor while still allowing the sauce to shine. German Schwarzbier, or “black beer,” is really good with sweeter sauces. Unlike other dark beers, Schwarzbiers are not overly bitter and tend to be more roast-oriented, giving them a refreshing taste. Another option is a Rauchbier, a dark amber beer, typically made with green malts that are dried over an open fire, lending a unique smokiness (“Rauch” is German for smoke) to the flavor. English Pale Ale (ESB), known for its malt and hop bitterness, and Altbier (Alt), known for its malt and hop balance, are also up to the task.

2. Barbecue with an Asian Influence: Choose A Brew That’s a Little Bit Fruity and Sweet. Belgian style ale is the perfect option for this kind of blend. A milk stout will also do the trick here as it tends to be sweeter than a dry stout (think Guinness). The roasted malts will help bring the Asian flavors and compliment the natural aroma of grilled meat. This kind of beer works well with a vinegar sauce as well.

3. Sauce is Hot and Spicy: Choose A Beer with Noticeable Sweetness. Matching drinks with spicy food can option be difficult. The best thing to put out that fire is lipids, the fats found in milk. If you’re going to reach for a beer, lower alcohol content is better, and you don’t want anything loaded with hops, which can be bitter and will only fan the flames. English brown ales have a fuller body, tend to be meltier and sweeter which works well with hot sauce. Last but not least, Oktoberfest, Vienna lager or a Munich Helles (meaning bright) can also help tame the heat.

4. Sauces That Are Both Hot and Sweet: Choose A Brew That’s Malty, Yet Dry. The malty sweetness will offset the heat, and the dryness will balance the sweetness. A good Czech Pilsner will be hoppy with a spicy bitterness or a spicy floral flavor that will accentuate the hot and sweet flavors from the sauce. A Dortmunder, a pale golden lager, is another excellent beer pairing for this type of sauce.

5. North Carolina Barbecue Ribs: Dark and Smoky Beer Complements the Smoked Hickory Flavor. A porter beer fits the bill here, with a rich flavor that will bring out the best in your ribs. Porters are dark medium-bodied beers with a nice balance of malty sweetness and bitter hoppiness. Porters tend to be slightly lighter and less full-bodied than stouts, perfectly complementing that smoked hickory flavor.

Bonus: Champagne with BBQ is surprisingly good! The bubbles cleanse the palate of the sweet and heat. The acidity cuts the fat.