The Best Type Of Beer To Drink With BBQ Ribs, According To An Expert

When you're buried face-first in a delicious rack of barbecue ribs, the only thing worth pausing for is a swig of ice-cold beer. After all, a good selection of beer is a sign that you're at a great BBQ restaurant — but which type of beer is best to drink with ribs? To find out, we talked to Stephen Alexander, sales & marketing director for Tall City Brewing in Texas and a member of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild Board of Directors.

"This is an extremely hard question because you have so many different styles of ribs," Alexander told Tasting Table. "But with [any type of] ribs I really enjoy drinking a cold IPA." It helps that there are just as many styles of IPA as there are types of ribs, though Alexander has his favorites, "West Coast or New England (hazy IPA) it does not matter."

Alexander mentioned his preference is Haze Y'all — a hazy New England IPA from Tall City Brewing — and Odell IPA, which is an American IPA. Of course, while he is flush with good barbecue restaurants in Texas, for those of us who are grilling and smoking our ribs at home you must remember to pick the right beer for the job.

IPAs are a good choice for BBQ ribs because they're bold

IPAs are a great choice for ribs for two main reasons. First, the bold flavors in an IPA can compete with the richness of the barbecue sauce. Although light domestic beers are a popular choice at cookouts, the weak flavor ends up tasting watery in comparison. With an IPA, you get full-bodied strength which adds a new dimension to the meal.

The hops in IPAs also have the benefit of being citrus-forward, which brings us to the next reason — flavor pairing. There's a reason so many people add a squeeze of citrus to elevate store-bought BBQ sauce. It may not be the most dominant taste involved, but it goes great with classic barbecue spices. By opting for a hop-heavy IPA, you're forming a bridge on your palate that ties the ribs and the beer together. Once the bridge is built, the beer can wander off to new flavors while still being connected. 

"Taking advantage of these interactions ensures that the ribs and IPAs will balance each other, with one partner not throwing the match out of whack," Stephen Alexander explained. While getting the beer and rib combo is hard to get wrong since they go so well together, getting the right drink for the job can elevate the dinner in ways that may surprise you.