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Just as beer drinkers are wise to bolster their knowledge and appreciation of fine wine, so too are wine lovers well served by opening their palates (and possibly snooty attitudes — hey, if this isn’t you, cool, but if the shoe fits...) to embrace the attributes of great beer. And with the hot and muggy season upon us, what better time to begin the exploration?
Before you get your grape-stained cargo shorts all in a twist, no one’s saying that summertime wines aren’t marvelous. A bright, lively albariño between dips in the pool is just right, and lobster with white Burgundy is clearly one of life’s great pleasures. But after scooping divots on the back nine or powering the two-stroke around that precious carpet of green, who in their right mind is going to upend a 750-milliliter of pinot bianco to cool off?
That’s right... no one. Beer has many qualities in common with wine but on one count at least, it stands head and shoulders above the sacred juice. Refreshment. Pure and simple restoration of body and spirit after a sweaty, grueling encounter with just about anything. So if you’re willing to concede at least a nugget of truth in what I’m saying, let’s wrap our parched lips around some top-notch, steamy day beer options.
The simplest approach to good warm-weather guzzling is to look for anything with bitter, white, wit, weisse, weizen, wheat, Kölsch, lambic, summer, or seasonal on the label. "Your list is like, totally incomplete," the beer geeks will shout; that may be my friends, but we’re trying to bring a few folks over from the grape side, so cut me some slack here.
Bitter, as in English bitters or special bitters, is a traditional ale style with a good but not overwhelming dose of hops, nicely balanced with some malty goodness and showing a touch of fruit. They’re typically on the lower side in alcohol (a plus in the summer heat), light in body and gold to copper in color. Think of them like an IPA’s little brother who can’t quite hop like the monster but who still delivers tremendous drinkability and refreshment.
White, wit, and weisse (or weiss), all meaning, duh... white, are made with wheat, as in weizen or wheat (and maybe a dollop of oatmeal) and often sport a complex, citrusy spiciness, rendering them stone-cold delicious and exceptionally refreshing. White beers may come from Belgium or Germany and are increasingly beloved by American craft brewers.
Straight wheat beers are likewise a mainstay of American brewers and are perfect for summer enjoyment, though for a step up in flavor and personality turn your sights to the original European versions. What’s more, in a good beer joint you can expect to get a show to go with your order for a classic weissbier or hefeweizen.
Properly served, a very tall glass is placed over the bottle and the duo is inverted in a single, smooth motion. As the beer fills the glass the bottle is slowly raised until it leaves a marshmallowy 2- or 3-inch head, at which point the bottle is removed and either swirled wine-style or rolled back and forth on its side. This little trick gathers up all the remaining yeast (these babies are bottled sur lies) mixing it with the remaining foam, which concoction is then used to top off the glass, often followed by garnishing with a slice of lemon. Once served, dive into this gorgeous brew in all its orange, banana, and clove ester-ness for a singular beer experience.
Moving from "show" beers back to our list, Kölsch describes a golden ale produced in Cologne, Germany, and, well... anywhere outside the EU, like the U.S., that makes this soft, hoppy, kinda fruity, kinda bitter, kind of not, easy and delicious, summer sipper. And then we have the lambics.
These Belgian throwbacks are open fermented with wild yeast (something any true vinophile can appreciate) after a convoluted mashing process that leaves even beer folks scratching their heads. The result is a sour, somewhat earthy, carbonated brew that in overly simplistic terms is called "gueuze" when unflavored and "fruit lambic" when made with cherries, raspberries, cassis, or peaches. Though it can be a love or hate proposition, the fruit flavors are rich and pure, and the higher acidity makes these summer quaffers a perfect match for any number of foods.
Finally, we have the summer or seasonal variants. A common bit of nomenclature among North American craft brewers, these are typically dosed with spice or fruit or a particularly interesting strain of hops. They’re made to refresh and encourage you to enjoy more than one. And most are excellent, a cut above the everyday pale ale or light lager. You may find rye ale or blueberry lager or any number of possibilities.
Now that you have some worthy options, trade in the wine stem for a beer tulip now and again. There are terrific beers out there, and if there’s one thing wine drinkers love, it’s finding the next new taste. If you’re not sure which ale or lager, which witbier, or lambic to try, put together a mixed six-pack. One of the beauties of beer is that it’s generally inexpensive. You can mix and match and hold your own tasting of half a dozen possibilities for the cost of a single bottle of good wine. Exploration and economics, a summer combo that’s hard to beat!
20 Beer Cocktails That'll Make Any Pregame a Turn-Up
Beer is great and all, but a beer cocktail is just better. Whether you're rocking a michelada at brekkie, a beergarita at happy hour, or a shandy at dinner time, these 20 drinks are sure to please.
Add 1 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 oz. Mole Poblana, 1 oz. tomato juice, 3 dashes chocolate bitters, and 1 oz. mezcal to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain into glass, and top with Negra Modelo beer. Garnish with chocolate spicy salt.
Shake 1 oz. Whole Leaf Gin, 1 oz. lemon juice, and 1 oz. simple syrup in a shaker for six seconds. Strain over ice in a glass, and add 4 oz. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Gently stir to mix.
In a shaker, combine 1 oz. grapefruit-infused Aperol, 1 oz. pineapple rum, ½ oz. almond reduction, and 2 drops vanilla extract. Pour into a pint glass and top with IPA beer.
In a small mixing tin, combine 1 oz. Paul Beau VS Cognac, 1 oz. Orleans Herbal, ½ oz. Rhum JM Cane Syrup, ½ oz. orange juice, and ½ oz. lemon juice. Shake slightly, and top with 3½ oz. Ommegang Witte beer. Strain into a lowball glass with a large ice rock.
Recipe from Center Bar in New York City.
Combine 2 parts Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, ½ part lime juice, and ¼ part ginger syrup in a glass. Slowly pour half of any wheat beer into the glass. Add a few ice cubes, and finish pouring the beer.
Add 1 oz. Contratto, ½ oz. sweet vermouth, and ½ oz. dry vermouth to an ice-filled glass. Top with 1 can of Tecate pale lager, and garnish with an orange wheel.
Recipe by bartender Ivy Mix at DIEGO at the PUBLIC Hotel in New York City.
Combine 1 ½ oz. Tom's Town Corruption gin, ½ oz. simple syrup, ½ oz. lemon juice, and 1 T KC Canning Co. strawberry Champagne jam in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a 14-oz. glass with ice. Top with 1 can Boulevard Brewing Co. Jam Band Berry Ale and serve.
In a food processor or blender, puree 2 cups of raspberries until smooth. Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer, and discard the seeds. Add 2 cups of water and ¼ cup of sugar to the puree and stir. In a blender, combine the raspberry mixture with ½ cup tequila, 1 cup UFO Raspberry beer, and 3 T lime juice. Add 2 cups of ice. Blend until completely smooth. Pour into 4 glasses, and garnish with limes and raspberries.
In a Collins glass, muddle 8 sprigs fresh cilantro and 1 lime. Add ½ tsp. agave syrup, and fill with ice. Add 6 oz. Stella Artois Cidre, then stir thoroughly, and top with a splash of soda water.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Combine 1 oz. fresh squeezed citrus juice (orange and lemon) with 3 oz. sweetened butterfly pea tea. Top with 4 oz. Blue Moon Belgian White. Serve over ice and orange slices, and garnish with an orange wheel.
Add 1.5 oz. Crown Royal Vanilla to 1 pint Pumpkin Ale, and serve in a pint glass.
In a glass, add 8 oz. Leinenkugel&rsquos Watermelon Shandy, 3 oz. ginger ale, a splash of simple syrup, and a splash of club soda. Garnish with a watermelon slice, lemon, lime, and orange.
In a pilsner glass filled with ice, add 1 1/2 oz. Svedka Strawberry Lemonade, 1 oz. iced tea, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, and a splash of Corona Extra. Stir briefly, and garnish with a slice of lemon and a strawberry.
In a glass filled with ice, add 4 oz. Austin Eastciders Blood Orange Cider, 1 ½ oz. bourbon, and 1 tbsp. agave. Top with 1 jalapeño slice, stir, and garnish with a lime slice.
In a large wine glass, combine 8 oz. lemonade with 8 oz. Stella Artois Cidre, and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Pour 1 1/2 oz. Svedka Colada, 2 oz. lemonade, and the juice of 1 lemon wedge in a shaker. Add ice, and shake briefly. Strain into a pint glass, top with Corona Light, and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Combine 1 ½ oz. lime juice, ½ oz. agave nectar, and the zest of 1 lime in a glass. Add beer, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wheel.
Recipe from Stanton Social in New York City.
In a large wine glass, combine 4 oz. lemonade with 4 oz. iced tea. Add a splash (approx. 1 tsp.) of rosemary simple syrup, and top with 8 oz. Stella Artois Cidre. Garnish with lemon wheels and 1 sprig of rosemary.
Recipe from Stella Artois.
Muddle 4 raspberries, 6 blueberries, and 3 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 ½ oz. tequila silver and 1½ oz. sour mix, and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with beer.
Recipe from Haven at The Sanctuary Hotel in New York City.
Mix ½ oz. simple syrup, ½ oz. fresh lemon juice, and ¾ oz. pineapple juice with 4 dashes of chai bitters. Shake dry. Pour over ice into a Collins glass, and top with Stella Artois Cidre. Garnish with a fresh lemon twist.
The Sommelier Update
The Sommelier Update is an educational blog on wine, beer, spirits and food. It started in conjunction with the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiast club, but has rapidly gained an international following from those interested in learning, enjoying and having fun with food and wine. Weekly articles on advice, service, pairing ideas, recipes, education and consultation, from a Certified Sommelier and wine educator.
Best Wines for a barbecue
The official kickoff to summer has always been Memorial Day. I have written about summer wines in a previous post, but we have never gone over the best drinks to have on hand for a barbecue (or BBQ). If you haven't pulled the barbecue out of storage, dusted it off, loaded the propane (or stocked up on the charcoal) then this weekend is the time to do it.
I would guess that most of you throw hamburgers or hot dogs on the grill, and down that with an ice-cold beer. Not a bad pairing, but what if you are not a beer drinker? What wines go best with foods grilled over the coals?
If you look back at my article on food and wine pairings, there are a few tips to help you out:
Grilling adds a bitter charred taste to foods. We can take two different approaches to bitterness, 1)match that bitterness with tannic wines, or 2) we can contrast that bitterness with fruitiness.
Some of the more tannic wines are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Notice they are all reds, as white wine does not contain tannin.
When we are looking to contrast, fruity wines can run all over the place. For reds, Gamay is definitely a fruity wine, as are some Pinot Noirs, but they are lighter wines, which might be overpowered by heavy meat dishes. Both Zinfandel and Syrah (particularly Australian Shiraz) can be fruity, with some tannin. White wines can also be fruit forward, but again, a delicate white wine might be overpowered by the meat. I would look for something with a bit more body, that can hold its' own against grilled foods. Riesling is always one of my "go to" wines, particularly for pork and sausages (the fat needs to be cut with some acidity, and Riesling does the job). You can also go to a Chardonnay, or maybe even a Chenin Blanc for Chicken. And. don't forget the Rose! One of my favorite summer wines, that pairs with most everything is a dry rose.
Beware of the barbecue sauce. Remember to add it to your meat towards the end, so it doesn't burn, and if it is spicy, choose a wine with lower alcohol, as the spice and alcohol combination will accentuate the heat.
My top choices for best wines to have on hand for the barbecue:
1. Zinfandel. Go for a lower alcohol (if that is possible) that is younger but with some tannin.
2. Syrah. Go for an Aussie version that is more fruit forward.
3. Rose. I like Bandol, Tavel, or some of the Roses coming out of California (usually Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre or Pinot Noir based). sorry, not a big fan of the Zinfandel based roses.
4. Riesling. I love a dry version from Alsace, France, or a dry Auslese from the Mosel region of Germany. This is a great pairing with sausages, brats, or hot dogs. and even some pork dishes with fruitier sauces.
5. Beer. How can you go wrong with beer?
One last tip. if your BBQ technique includes marinates, dry rubs and sauces. don't open up your best bottle of wine. Great bottles should be served with simple foods, where the wine can be the star. With barbecue, we want the wine and food to work with each other. Overpowering spices, will over power your wine, and isn't the ultimate joy, the blending of the two?
The Best Wines to Drink with Ribs
Succulent ribs can be prepared from pork or beef, but in terms of selecting a wine to drink with them, the sauce and spices are the most important consideration. The wide variety of rib styles (check out our barbecue style guide!) allows for lots of wine experimentation.
Ribs are big hunks of meat, true, but the flavors can actually be quite delicate. Huge wines can mask the hours of slow-cooked flavor. Look for wines with plenty of fruit flavors and moderate tannins to bring out the best in your ribs.
For the purposes of these pairings, we have made a general distinction between dry, spice-rubbed ribs and wet, tomato-based sweeter sauce styles. (There are obviously a ton of other variations.) Dry-rub ribs have spicy notes that respond well to earthier wines. The wet ribs need something fruitier or off-dry to balance and enhance the sauce.
We love sparkling wines with ribs! The bubbles help to cleanse the palate and keep your mouth fresh and ready for more rich food. Ribs with a sweeter sauce pair well with off-dry wines—try Mumm Napa Cuvée M, which has an earthy scent that leads to ripe white peach flavors. Perfect for balancing a well-sauced rib. ($16-$25, find this wine)
For dry-rubbed ribs, a red lambrusco like the Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso is ideal. The dry, earthy flavors of fresh black cherries and herbs pick up on the spices in the rub, and the delicate bubbles keep everything clean and easy-drinking. (Around $16, find this wine)
A white wine with racy acidity and round stone fruit flavors like a pinot gris treats all kinds of ribs well. Try the 2009 Robert Sinskey Los Carneros Pinot Gris for a treat. ($22-$29, find this wine)
Spanish Rosado tends to be a richer, fruitier style more akin to a light red wine. These juicy rosés, like the Grupo Matarromera Bodegas Valdelosfrailes 2010, are packed with fresh raspberry fruit and complement a sweet bbq sauce. (Around $11, find this wine)
Rich and fruity reds bring out the juiciness in all styles of ribs. Try a full and silky syrah with cassis fruit and a touch of sweet spice like the 2006 Jelu Reserva from Argentina, especially with a vinegar-heavy sauce. (Around $16, find this wine)
For a darker, more concentrated (even meaty) wine, try a California Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2009 Chad Red Hills Lake County Cabernet pairs particularly well with dry-rub. ($17-$20, find this wine)
Disclosure: The Lini 910 Lambrusco, Mumm Napa Cuvée M, and Valdelosfrailes Rosado were provided as samples for review.
19 Necessary Beverages For Any Socially Distant Barbecue This Summer
As we continue to combat the pandemic, get vaccinated, wear our masks, and keep our distance, we are slowly getting back to normalcy. As we reach the summer months, we hope to see businesses continue to reopen and to experience things in real life again (in small groups) instead of on the other side of the computer screen.
Whether you love a fruity alcoholic beverage, a nice cold beer, or you don&rsquot drink alcohol at all, we&rsquove got you covered. The drinks at any barbecue always sets the mood&mdashfrom a chilled rosé to the exploding market of hard seltzers. Here are some of our favorite beverages that will elevate any socially distant BBQ this summer.
Travis Scott&rsquos new brand Cacti is the coolest vibe on the market RN. At seven percent ABV, the drinks pack a real punch. Their backstory explains: &ldquoThe legend goes like this: A meteor from Utopia crashed down onto the agave fields of Mexico creating a unique blend of celestial stardust and Mexican agriculture.&rdquo
This particular flavor, which includes pineapple, coconut, and orange, advises you on the label to flip it upside down to activate the charcoal.
There&rsquos no better way to get into a summer mood than with Blue Point&rsquos Summer Ale. While it&rsquos a light ale, this New York-brewed drink has a tartness in its flavor that&rsquos not typically characteristic of beers in this vein.
Started by a husband and wife in Sonoma County, CA, Haus brings elegance to any socially distant gathering. Their drinks, like the Grapefruit Jalapeño at 18 percent ABV, can be consumed on their own, or they can be turned into a cocktail such as Grapefruit Fizz or a Haus Paloma. Each flavor is super unique. See: Bitter Clove, Spiced Cherry, and Lemon Lavender.
15 Best Beers to Buy and Drink All Season Long
Whether you like a bitter IPA or a light lager, we've picked the best beer brands for delicious sipping.
Finding the best beer is important for seasonal sipping. Popping a can or cracking open a bottle serves as the perfect refreshing beverage as you grill and chill all summer long and is the ideal partner to game day tailgates in the fall. If you&rsquore looking for a traditional beer that goes with any meal you plan to prepare, or want to buy a funky brew you&rsquove never tried before, we&rsquove collected our favorite beers to appeal to any beer drinker, no matter the season. And the best beer brands, from New Belgium Brewing to Dogfish Head, are killer accompaniments for game day grub, rich burgers, juicy grilled chicken, and cool BBQ salads.
We tasted plenty of cans and bottles to find the best beer to drink no matter the season. Whether you love a sour, a fruit beer, a rich IPA, or a light ale, look no further for complex and refreshing brews to try. If you're ready to celebrate summer pull out your favorite cooler and load it with any of these best beers, plus some summer-ready hard seltzers, and your tastiest rosé wines. If you're looking for a beer to sip while keeping cozy in the cooler months, any of these beers will hit the spot. No matter the time of year, these best beers are sure to satisfy. Get sipping!
This is a juicy treat with flavors of white peach and citrus. It is creamy and smooth with only a touch of bitterness making it both great for sipping solo or with some grub.
What to Drink With: Barbecue Food
As the sun sets later and the evenings grow warmer, everyone gathers out on the patio or deck, basking in the aromas of barbecued specialties of the house. With spice rubs and a profusion of sauces to fill the air, it’s no wonder we’re drawn to the barbecue like bees to honey.
But the grill serves up such a wide range of treasures that pairing them with wine can be seen either as a challenge or an overture to your imagination. Driven by flavor accents from sauce and spice, each grilled meat could wax from one side of the wine continuum to the other. Luckily, the spirit of outdoor dining—including the tendency to serve lighter, less cerebral, beverages—simplifies the choice.
Sparkling wines beat the heat and play well with almost any grilled food. Stick to the quaffable wines like Prosecco or Cava, or maybe a light-bodied California bubbly, and leave the vintage Champagne in the cellar.
White wines are clearly suited to grilled fish and chicken, and some pork recipes, even those that call for blackened preparations or spice rubs. The high acidity in Sauvignon Blanc—or a cool Sancerre (made from the same grape)—pairs perfectly in this role. Choose a white Burgundy or another Chardonnay for the fattier fish, like tuna, trout, or rockfish. Chardonnay’s also the best pick for veggie burgers, and sometimes regular hamburgers that have a mushroom sauce.
There’s no question that rosés add lift and ‘spirit’ to casual outdoor gatherings. Served brisk and cool, these wines have a bit more acidity than white wines to battle the grilled flavors of the food. Among the easy favorites in this category are Bandol from Provence, Tavel from the Rhône Valley, and some interesting rosé experiments in California made from the Sangiovese grape.
When pork or salmon is on the menu, Pinot Noir—from Oregon, the Russian River Valley or Burgundy—is best. The richer flavors rely on the Pinot Noir for weight and texture though they would get blotted out by heavier wines like Cabernet, Petit Sirah, or Barolo. Smoked meats—especially those with a bacon accent—are also best served with Pinot Noir, playing off the smoky, tea-leaf flavors of the wine.
If you’re serving hamburgers, steak, barbecued ribs, or beef tenderloin, only the big red wines will do. Bordeaux, California Cabernet, and Barolo are perfect matches, but if the spice turns the dish hot, zero in on Zinfandel or a similarly spicy Australian Shiraz or Argentine Malbec.
The key to successful wine-food pairing for outdoor dining is simplicity. Don’t choose a wine that requires too much thought because the setting doesn’t call for that. The wines should fit the food, but they should also fit the casual mood of the gathering.
Great wines to drink at a barbecueHarry Fawkes May 7, 2020
Credit: Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash
BBQ wine suggestions at a glance:
Here are some wine pairings for classic barbecue dishes. For ease of use, we’ve overlooked the uses of marinades and sauces.
- Steak – Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz
- Burgers – Zinfandel, Grenache blends (like Côtes du Rhône), Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sausages – Tempranillo, Gamay, Pinot Noir
- BBQ chicken – Warmer climate Chardonnay
- Pork chops – Valpolicella, Barbera, Riesling, dry rosé
- Salmon – Rosé Champagne, Pinot Gris, Chilled Pinot Noir
- Sardines – Albariño, Picpoul de Pinet
- Halloumi – Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Assyrtiko
- Veggie Skewers – Chenin Blanc (fresher styles), dry rosé, Gamay
There are few things better than a barbecue in the sunshine with a glass of wine, even if the current situation means that you can only have your immediate household present.
Choosing good bbq wine can really elevate the occasion, but we’ve all had bad experiences, too.
Forget those days of washing down a burnt burger with warm Chardonnay or ‘cooked’ red served in a plastic cup, because you have a lot of wine options to suit different tastes and foods.
As ever, think about the flavours in the food. If you’re going big on the spice, then you could lean towards juicier reds or whites with a touch of sweetness, such as off-dry Riesling, for example.
Pinot Gris from Alsace, for example, might work better if your salmon has Southeast Asia-inspired flavours, while sausages with lots of herbs, such as fennel or sage, could be fun with a Langhe Nebbiolo.
All-rounder BBQ wines
Of course, it’s unlikely that you’re going to purchase 10 types of wine and impose strict pairing regulations on the occasion.
There are some good all-rounder wines that tick many of the boxes needed for a great barbecue.
- Pinot Noir
- Champagne and other traditional method sparkling wines
Top tips for serving
If it’s above 20°C, 68°F, outside then it’s perfectly acceptable to chill your red wines. Even the most powerful red wines are best at ‘room temperature’, which is no more than 18°C, or around 65°F.
Also, and this almost goes without saying these days, but avoid plastic cups if possible.
First published in August 2016. Most recently updated in May 2020.
The daring, bold flavors of barbecue pork require a refreshing drink filled with light, airy flavors and a darker spirit base. Aged whiskeys and rums are excellent bases for this pairing. When topped with soda, the darker spirits add freshness to the meal. A few suggestions include the whiskey-based John Collins, Lynchburg lemonade, or the simple highball. For a rum drink, the Anejo highball–mixed with ginger beer–is a perfect choice. The ginger beer makes this drink the darkest selection of the bunch.
Although this is a relatively simple dish to make, pulled pork has an intense variety of flavors. The savory meat, sweet onions, and garlic are complex enough, but then the addition of barbecue sauce takes the flavor profile to another level.
The barbecue sauce you choose to add to your recipe has a great influence on the dish. What flavor dominates? Is it tomato, spices, heat, or smoke? No matter the choice, this recipe will be bursting with many tastes and aromas. The varying flavors in the sauce, plus the fat from the pork, suggests that the dish needs a contrasting flavored beer. A beer with comparable flavors would get lost in the taste of the pork and be little more than just wet.
Perhaps the best pairing choice is a bright and citrusy American pale ale. The strong hops notes will likely dance with the spices of the barbecue sauce, and the malt from the beer should match up with the savory meat. The bright notes of the beer will nicely cleanse the palate. Although an American pale ale is similar in style to American India Pale Ale (IPA), IPAs are stronger and more assertively hopped. Stick to a simpler American pale ale.
Some classic examples of American pale ales include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale.
What to Drink With Barbecue
Whether you&rsquore chowing down on ribs slathered in a sweet, tomato-based sauce or on pulled pork in a tangy vinegar dressing, follow these tips to find the perfect beverage to go with it.
Popping open a frosty can to go with your grilled goods seems like a no-brainer, but which beer to choose? It depends on the style of barbecue and the way you cook and season the food, says Samuel Merritt, the founder of the certification programs Civilization of Beer and Certified Cicerone. For Memphis-style barbecue, which is typically pork dressed with a peppery, vinegar-based sauce, Merritt recommends an authentic Belgian Saison, like Saison Dupont ($9 a bottle). “Its bright, dry, and quenching acidity, along with its big, zesty effervescence, will cut through the savory fat of the meat,” he says. For the mustard-based sauces favored by barbecue fans in South Carolina, choose an American IPA, whose sweet, malty flavors will balance the tang of the mustard and whose hops and citrus notes will complement the peppery sauce.
In Texas, many devotees of the region’s slow-smoked beef brisket and pork ribs prefer their barbecue in a hot, vinegar-based dressing. For this style, try a rich, refreshing hometown brew like Shiner Bock ($8 for six cans), from Shiner, Texas, to help soothe the burn. Or try any beer with some malty sweetness to balance the heat and some hoppy, tangy notes to complement the tartness of the vinegar, such as an amber lager. If a rich, tomato-based sauce is preferred, Merritt suggests Guinness Draught Stout ($8 for six bottles). The beer’s bitter edge will accentuate the flavor of the tomatoes while its creamy smoothness mellows the peppery, salty meat.
If you prefer the Kansas City style of barbecue (meat of all kinds slathered with smoky, thick tomato-and-molasses- or brown-sugar-based sauces) try it with a Belgian Dubbel. This style of beer has been fermented with added sugars to give it some fruity sweetness but has a dry finish to counteract the richness of the meat.
“When pairing wines with barbecue, a good way to start is to match a dominant component in the sauce or style, keeping in mind what type of meat is used, and find a similar element in a particular wine,” says Beth von Benz, a wine consultant at mvbconsulting.com, who works with restaurants and retail stores. With the tangy sauce of Memphis barbecue, try a white wine with bright, fresh citrus notes, such as Bodegas Naia Rueda Verdejo 2012 ($13) from Spain, which has tart grapefruit and green apple flavors. If you prefer red, a smoky, spicy Malbec from Argentina, like Altos Las Hormigas, 2011 ($13), is a good choice, or go for a Cru Beaujolais. Enjoy the latter slightly chilled, says von Benz, which can bring out the fruity quality of the wine and makes it an ideal choice for outdoor gatherings.
With the smoky beef of Texas barbecue, a smooth, plummy Italian red with a naturally high acidity, like a Sangiovese, or a bold, smoky Shiraz would be nice with any spicy chili- or tomato-based sauces. Try the Torbreck Vintners Cuvee Juveniles Barossa Valley 2010 ($24), an Australian blend of the Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro grapes. It is unoaked and spicy with bright fruit flavors, so it can stand up to the heat in this Texas style.
For Kansas City barbecue, red Zinfandel is a classic pairing. “The fruitiness of the wine complements the molasses notes, and hints of black pepper bring out the spice,” says von Benz. Her choice: Joel Gott Zinfandel 2011 ($17), which is dense and rich with flavors of blackberry jam.
Since barbecue is a product of the American South, it makes sense to pair it with an American spirit that is also from the South: bourbon.
The way bourbon is produced plays a role in making it sing with barbecued meats and sauces. By law, bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that consists of at least 51 percent corn, making it taste sweeter than spirits created with a greater percentage of barley, rye, or wheat. After it is distilled, bourbon is aged in new American oak barrels whose insides have been charred, which imparts a sweet woodsy, vanilla flavor that complements meats that have been smoked or cooked. And its mild sweetness pairs well with both the sweet and the spice of barbecue.
A versatile choice, bourbon can be enjoyed neat, on ice, or in a wide variety of cocktails. A Mint Julep is a great classic cocktail to pair with barbecue, says Nate Adler, the beverage manager at Blue Smoke Restaurant, in New York’s Battery Park City. “Not only is it culturally significant and pays homage to what they drink in the South, it is perfect with barbecue because the sugar and mint cool anything spicy and complements the sweet. You don’t even realize there’s bourbon in it.”