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Sara Hansen

The Best BBQ and Beer Pairings To Try Today

There’s not much better than a nice cold beer with the smoky BBQ that you’ve been cooking outside. Especially during these hotter summer days. You may have heard that certain wines pair well with certain types of food. But, you may not know that the same kind of thing applies to beer pairings with BBQ. 

Certain beers pair better with BBQ compared to others. With the variety of micro-brewed beers available these days there’s a lot to choose from. It all comes down to balancing flavors to complement each other.

So, you may be wondering what beers pair well with BBQ? If you are going to take the time to learn how to BBQ right, why not learn what beer pairings can help elevate the flavors and make your tastebuds dance. 


General Pairing Rules To Remember

There is a variety of beers that pair very nicely with many of the common flavors found in BBQ. The important thing to remember is that you want to pick a beer that balances the flavors found in your BBQ. A beer with the exact same comparable flavors will just get lost. For example, you don’t want to pair a sweeter beer with a sweet BBQ sauce.

Also, when it comes to the heaviness of the beer, you want to match it with the heaviness of the food. Light meats or seafood pair with lighter beers, while heavier meats pair better with heavier beers.

In this article, we’ll break down some of the best beers that you can pair with different types of BBQ. Then you can be sure to have something for everyone, no matter if you are barbecuing for a Monday night family dinner or getting ready to unleash your barbecue skills on the 4th of July weekend


Chicken & Seafood

When you are cooking lighter meats, like chicken, as well as any seafood, beers on the lighter end of the spectrum are going to be your best bet. You can still end up with a flavorful beer without overpowering the meat. 

Great beer pairings for chicken and seafood include:

  • Light Lager - These lighter flavored beers go very well with lighter BBQ foods. Some of them have a refreshing balance of floral fruit hops, almost like a pilsner, and bready malt. While others have a hint of sweetness from a toasted caramel malt flavor. 
  • Pilsner - A drier beer with a hint of bitterness to help balance buttery flavors, especially in seafood. Some Pilsners have some floral hops flavors like Lagers as well. 
  • Witbier - These often have a little more sweetness compared to some of the other light beers, but also adding a citrusy acidity. You’ll usually find a hint of coriander spice as well. 
  • Hefeweizen - These usually have a little heavier body compared to a Light Lager but are still refreshing and light enough for chicken and seafood. With these, you’ll find a nice blend of fruit flavors (like banana, for example), lemon, cloves, coriander, and a hint of tartness. 
  • Saisons - These fun brews have a tart and complex flavor that will balance well with the sweeter or oily flavors in chicken and seafood.


beer to pair with bbq chicken | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: The Food Network



Whether you are cooking chops, shoulder, or ribs, pork is going to be considered medium-heaviness meat. So, with more fat and a bolder flavor, you can slightly increase the heaviness with the beer pairing. 

Some beers that go great with pork include:

  • India Pale Lager - With a lighter and not as bitter flavor as an India Pale Ale, an IPL will have a lightly toasty and sweet malt profile to bring out the flavors in the meat, while spicy and citrusy hop flavors pair well with many BBQ sauce flavors. 
  • Pale Ale - These are on the lighter end when it comes to heaviness but the citrusy, floral blend of flavors will still hold up to the pork with enough malt and pair very well. 
  • Session IPA (India Pale Ale) - With a lower bitterness and fuller flavor compared to a traditional IPA, copper-colored Session IPAs still have enough of a punch of hops to pair with the fattier pork flavors. They also balance tangy BBQ flavors very well. 
  • German Lager - On the heavier end for lagers, German Lagers feature bready, caramelly, or toasty flavors with dark malts that cut through the fat of the meat and complement flavors nicely. 
  • Porter - Considered a medium body beer, but one that won’t overpower the meat, Porters are a great match for BBQ pork. The smokiness and roasted malt flavors balance the flavors of the meat, while sometimes even adding a hint of toasted chocolate or coffee flavors.

Keep in mind, if you are using a heavier sauce on your pork, especially a sweeter based one, don’t go for a beer that is on the sweeter side. Pair a brighter, hoppier beer with a sweet barbecue sauce to balance the flavor. If you are using more of a vinegar-based or tangy sauce, a Porter with a hint of sweetness is going to complement nicely.


Ribeye Steak

Ribeye Steak cuts are going to fall between pork and brisket, lamb, etc when it comes to heaviness. Especially for thicker, fattier steaks. So think of the heaviness of the beer the same. You could go towards the darker, more robust end of the spectrum for your beer pairing.

Some good beer pairings for steak include:

  • Brown Ales - These are darker than other Ale varieties without being as bold as Porters and Stouts. The malt flavors are strong enough without overpowering the meat. Making these perfect for leaner steak cuts. 
  • Porter - Because of the darkened malts, these often have a roasted bitterness that offers a perfect contrast to marbled steak. 
  • Stout - These pair well if you want to go heavier for a bigger, fattier steak. The roasted black malts that give stouts their color undergo almost the same carbonization that the exterior of your steak does when it is seared on the hot grill, pairing perfectly without being overpowering.


beer to pair with steak | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: FoodChannel.com


Beef Brisket, Beef Ribs, & Lamb

When you get into brisket, beef ribs, lamb, or other gamey meats, you can pair the heavy, bold flavors of the meat with bolder beers. In general, beers that are hoppier or have more malt will hold up to the meat and complement it well.

Beers that pair well with these bolder meats include:

  • India Pale Ale (IPA) - These are on the lighter end of the beer pairing choices for brisket and lamb. They often have refreshing fruit flavors but are far from a sweet fruit beer because of the strong, bitter citrus hops and malt flavors. 
  • Belgian Dubbel or Tripel -  These fuller-bodied beers have a heavy dark malt profile. Combined with a great balance of bready Belgian yeast, caramel undertones, and a hint of sweet fruitiness, these balance the flavors in the meat very well. 
  • Stout - A dark, usually heavy bodied-beer, stouts hold up to the heaviness of brisket and lamb while offering a hint of sweetness with dry flavors to balance the meat.

You could even go with one of the heavy dark beers that have even sweeter notes of dark fruit or chocolate, to balance and enhance the rich, savory flavors of the “big” meats. Especially if you’re cooking more of a Texas-style brisket with bolder, spicier flavors.


Universal Favorites

If you’re cooking for a crowd, you may be cooking several different types of meat. Or you, or someone else who will be enjoying your delicious BBQ, may not like hoppier or dark beers. In either of these cases, don’t fear. Several types of beer could be considered universal favorites. This is because their flavor profiles don’t lean towards too hoppy on one end of the spectrum or too sweet on the other end.

  • American Pale Ale - Even though we mentioned Pale Ale for pork, American Pale Ales have enough hoppiness to complement the spice flavors present in most BBQ, as well as enough malt to hold up to stronger, more savory flavors. An American Pale Ale will also have enough bright flavor notes to be refreshing and cleanse the palate. 
  • Dark Lager - These beers have toasty, nutty, or lightly roasted malt flavor that compliments the similar flavors produced by your grill or smoker. They also often have a hint of caramel flavor that will bring a little sweetness to the mix. This type of combination will allow your beer to pair with any type of meat. Try and go with one that falls in the 5 to 6% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) range so it doesn’t fall short or overpower your food.


beer to pair with bbq | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: Kegerator Learning Center


Wrapping It All Up

Cooking BBQ often gives you a chance to experiment and play around with different flavors. Whether the flavor is in the type of wood you are using as fuel, flavors in your rubs or sauces, or the type of meat you are cooking. 

Why not step out of your normal comfort zone when it comes to beer pairings also. Different pairings will enhance different flavors found in the meat. Drinking an American Pale Ale with your steak will make it taste completely different than drinking it with a Porter, but both will be delicious. 

Experiment with pairing different flavors of beers with your delicious BBQ. As you can see, you’ve got a lot of great options to choose from.

Now you know how to elevate your beer pairing game, get more insider information and tips from the award-winning pitmasters and grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy to take your BBQ to the next level. In our BBQ classes, you’ll learn step-by-step outdoor cooking techniques alongside insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video. Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look!

Sara Hansen

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