The Key To Pairing Beer With Lighter Summer Dishes, According To An Expert

It's officially summertime, which means that we'll be looking for the perfect drink pairings for any lighter summer dishes, such as salads, fresh fruits, seafood, and more. While most people would turn to refreshing cocktails, or potentially white wine, as the ideal pairing partners, there are options out there for the beer lovers among us as well. In fact, there are a number of beers that, while unexpected, can pair perfectly with light summer fare. And Tasting Table got some exclusive firsthand guidance from an expert when it comes to pairing beer and food. 

According to Jessie Massie, Head Chef at the Sierra Nevada Taproom in Mills River, NC, "for foods like fruits, or salads, or fruit salads think about pairing a light, bright beer style. Those foods can get really overpowered by the bitterness in something like a big IPA, so look for beer styles that will compliment and not take over." Specifically, Massie recommends looking for beers that are low on the international bitterness units (IBU) scale when picking out your pairings.

Beers with a low IBU make for the perfect summertime pairing

Beers with a low IBU rating tend to be lighter, without as much of a lingering bitter hoppiness. As Massie notes, these milder selections, including many lagers, crisp pilsners, and even fruity sours, can create a refreshing complement to lighter foods on a hot day. The chef also recommended a Gose beer or Berliner-Weisse beer to pair with a fruit salad. "[Those] can be a really nice compliment to the natural sweetness or tart flavors in the fruit. Those styles typically have a slight salinity that pairs nicely with fresh cut fruit like melon or berries."

However, that doesn't mean that a hoppy IPA is totally out of the question if that's what you love. While speaking to Tasting Table, Massie revealed that not all IPAs, despite veering more on the bitter side, will be too overpowering for a light refreshing summer meal. "There are certainly lighter style IPAs out there that come in relatively low on the IBU scale (like a brut IPA) and therefore could be a great pairing to compliment a spread that includes tropical fruit like mango or pineapple," said Massie.