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Red, White, Brew and BBQ!

Summer’s officially here y’all! & After the winter-that-would-never-end, we’re all spending as much time as possible outside with friends & family, poolside, beachside, putzing about the yard, picnicking, playing Cornhole, sitting around the campfire, and grilling our little hearts out on our decks and patios. It’s easy to stock the cooler with cheap barley water like Bud Light or Coors, but with all the hard work that goes into perfecting your medium-rare NY strip or fine-tuning your smoked baby back ribs into something that would be a contender on Top Chef, shouldn’t you have a beer that compliments and enhances your grill-master cuisine? Well, hold on to your basting brushes kids, and read onwards for some brew suggestions to elevate your entire backyard BBQ experience.

Beef – Steak, Burgers, Brisket

Beef is notoriously rich in fatty goodness. (Haven’t you noticed that everything that your physician says to limit your intake of is always the BEST eats?!) A marbled ribeye is one of the best cuts of meat that can be simply seasoned with a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, thrown on the grill and ultimately savored with each bite. Burgers tend to be a little more complex with all sorts of additions to make it uniquely your own with cheeses, condiments, veggies, etc. When grilled, both beef dishes become a little charred, adding to the richness and complexity in flavoring of the beef itself. Brisket is usually dry rubbed with a multitude of spices and smoked at low temps for a longer duration of time. Brisket, when cooked correctly, is extremely tender and flavorful.

Brews of choice: Schwarzbiers, Smoked or Roasted Porters or Stouts, Brown Ales. Dark and roasted malts help to intensify the charred flavors found in grilled and smoked beef while bringing balance to the richness of the fatty juices.

Brew to try: Sumatra Mountain Brown by Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI), 9% ABV; a brown ale that’s on the lighter side with notes of coffee, brown sugar, and dark malts, with a bit of nuttiness thrown in for good measure.

Pork – Ribs, Roasts, Bacon, Pulled, Sausages

Many pork dishes in the summer are served smokey and sweet. Pork can also be quite savory and rich in conjunction with a higher fat content as well. Ribs can be slathered with barbeque sauce or simply dry rubbed with a spice mix. Pig roasts, especially in relation to whole pig roasts, are done slowly in order for the flavors to build and meld into something quite delicious. Bacon can be added to ANY of your summer dishes, including vegetables and summer pasta or potato salads, sausages lend their own encased spice mix, and pulled pork is simply a staple around these parts.

Brews of choice: Smoked Porters, Tripels, Dunkelweizens, Marzens. The smoked porters impart an added layer of complexity and only build and layer with the flavors and richness of the pork itself. Other malty brews tend to dance cheek-to-cheek with the flavors of the sauces and spices used.

Brew to try: Smoke N’ Shadows Porter by Empire Brewing Company (Syracuse, NY) & Community Beer Works (Buffalo, NY), 6.2% ABV; this collaboration craft beer’s Munich and Vienna malts were smoked over 3 days using cherry-wood. So grab your growler – It can currently be found on tap, (& on nitro), and is sweet, smokey, with a slight bitterness. Overall, it is sublimely balanced. (Bonus: Pair this with Empire’s Spicy Pig Burger at either of their locations for a real kick-ass meal pairing!)

Chicken – BBQ, Jerk, Wings, Marinated

Chicken, as a whole, is a milder meat. If pairing with barbequed chicken, pairing a brew with the sauce you use is going to offer the best and most complementary pairing. Jerk chicken and wings are going to offer up a spicy heat to pair with. Marinated chicken normally has a different spectrum of flavors that include bright herbs and spices with sometimes a bit of a citrusy zing thrown in as well.

Brews of choice: Saisons, Goses, Farmhouse Ales, Helles Lagers – these will pair well alongside of your spicier sauces and jerk seasonings, keeping the heat in check while not overpowering the mildness of the meat itself. In addition, they’ll also enhance the delicate flavors present in marinades. Ambers, with their malts, compliment the barbeque sauces used in conjunction with the chicken meat.

Brew to try: Citra Sour Soft Serve by Gun Hill Brewing Company (Bronx, NY), 3.6% ABV; this dry-hopped kettel sour is fairly complex —think about if you mixed a sour with an IPA with a cream ale— this is what you’d get. Sounds weird, but it’s not once you taste it. The smooth tartness and balance of all the different aspects makes this a prime selection to compliment all of your grilled chicken dishes.

Seafood – Shrimp, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Fish, Lobster

There are so many options when it comes to seafood in the summer from freshwater and the ocean. Grilling any and all of the above either on skewers, wood planks, beach fire bakes, eating them raw, or just popping them in a pot on your grill burner, lends a whole other level of experimentation to your summer barbecuing experience. Seafood and their delicate flavors should only be delicately enhanced by the brews we drink.

Brews of choice: Pilsners, Helles Lagers, Witbiers, Hefeweizens, Sours. All of these brews tend to be on the lighter side and not overly hoppy. Some add a little citrusy acidity to your sweet meats. We finish many fish and seafood dishes off with a spritz of a slice of lemon, think of your accompanying beer as achieving the same result.

Brew to try: Peach in the Glasses Wit by Artisanal Brew Works (Saratoga Springs, NY), 4.6% ABV, this witbier is light with very, very subtle peach notes, with the hazy flavoring of a classic wheat beer. A perfect pairing for gobbling up all the creatures of the sea.

Veggies & Veggie Burgers

Don’t worry vegetarians and vegans, I got you! It’s not always all about the meat! Grilling vegetables is one of the best ways to bring out different flavors within the veggies themselves. Corn, asparagus, zucchini, portobellos, peppers, onions, potatoes, the list goes on and on. You can lay them directly on the grill, wrap them in foil, or saute them in a grill pan. There are so many options, including the addition of seasonings. Veggie burgers are sometimes plain, sometimes spiced and much like an actual beef burger, can be dressed-up a variety of different ways. Veggies are versatile, but you’re going to want a beer that doesn’t overpower the mild earthiness of them.

Brews of choice: Pilsners, Helles Lagers, Witbiers, Belgians, American Pale Ales, Hefeweizens. All of these compliment the mildness of the veggies. If you’re grilling stronger flavored veggies such as mushrooms and onions, or a veggie burger with all the fixins’, American Pale Ales are an even better accompaniment.

Brew to try: Saranac Pale Ale by Saranac Brewing/F.X. Matt Brewing Company (Utica, NY), 5.5% ABV; this classic American Pale Ale is a go-to for summer alone, but pairing it with your veggies, especially your stronger flavored ones, is even better. Malty, hoppy, and crisp with a balanced medium body.

Now you’re completely, 100% ready for those backyard get-togethers! (Along with your stomach growling and mouth watering after reading this article.) So get that grill fired up and your koozies out of your kitchen drawers and have a tasty, fun, and safe summer ahead! Cheers!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!