Basic Guide To Pairing Beer And BBQ

Last weekend, I looked out my window and saw something so yellow, so unexpected that I rubbed my eyes. Twice. "Hon," I called to my fiancée, beckoning her to the living room. I pointed outside. "Is that...?" "Yes," she said, "it's really the sun." "Then it's time to BBQ," I said, toddling off to grab my grease-stained tongs.

Gentlemen, following a snowy winter and soggy spring, grilling season has finally arrived. Oh, how my charcoal-powered Weber fills my heart with schoolboy glee. I love nothing more than tending to glowing coals, the smoke perfuming my clothes, as I watch bratwursts and frankfurters grow plump and taut. Well, that's a lie. There's one activity I like more than grilling: drinking beer. Combine them and I have a mood brightener more powerful than Prozac.

You know what harshes my mellow? When I invite friends over for some first-rate 'cue and they tote along a 30-pack of beer as watery as the cooler's ice. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Yet if I'm spending hours marinating steaks, skewering shrimp and shucking corn, the least a guest can do is bring quality beer, preferably an easy-sipper that goes well with charred flesh. "Yeah, that's why I carted over the Coors Light," you moan.

Look, I love a cold Coors Light now and then, especially when I'm baking on a beach. But think of it this way: Why serve superior vittles with cut-rate suds? You'll savor that New York strip so much more if it accompanies a nice, nutty brew like Avery Ellie's Brown or a rich and malty Belgian dubbel such as Chimay Première. They're quaffs that complement, and even elevate, your grilled grub.

Don't stumble into the Budweiser trap. Try these suggested pairings during your next BBQ.

Hamburgers: To slice through the luscious richness, opt for a gently hopped pale ale such as Boulder Beer's Hazed & Infused, or a lager with a lick of caramel sweetness, such as Great Lakes Eliot Ness.

Steak: A nice hunk of well-aged, medium-rare meat plays well with an opulent, malt-driven Belgian brew such as Affligem Dubbel or Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Fish: To ably complement lighter seafood, look toward a saison like Pretty Things' prickly Jack D'Or, or a wheat beer like Allagash White. It'd also work well with lemon-spritzed veggies and shrimp, as would a cloudy hefeweizen like Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier.

Pulled Pork: Smoky swine would go divine with Schlenkerla Helles, a lightly campfire-scented and surprisingly refreshing lager. Too weird? For more assertively flavored sauces, go for a bitter brew such as Stone IPA or Bear Republic Racer 5.

Kielbasa or Bratwurst: These subtly flavored meats tend to be overwhelmed by IPAs. Instead, try a dark, crisp lager such as Spaten Dunkel, or maybe a full-bodied, amber-hued Shiner Bock.