We Asked An Expert: This Is The Best Beer To Pair With Texas-Style Barbecue

When it comes to barbecue there's always a lot to argue about, especially with Texas-style barbecue, but one thing you shouldn't be sweating over is what you're drinking. Beer and barbecue go together like coffee and donuts, two things that are delicious no matter what you pair them with, but are perfect together. Even if there are lots of good wines that go with barbecue, the crisp refreshment of a cold beer feels custom-made for the heavy, rich flavors of slow-smoked meat. So the only question is, which one of the many beer styles actually works best with your meal? 

There are even more types of beer than there are styles of barbecue, and what works with your sweet and saucy Kansas City-style ribs isn't always going to fly in Texas. So Tasting Table asked Stephen Alexander, the sales & marketing director of Tall City Brewing in Midland, Texas and a member of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild Board of Directors, what beer he would pair with Texas barbecue.

Before getting to the beer, Alexander reminds us that one type of meat should always be on your tray in Texas. "Being from Texas," he says, "brisket is KING!" And for brisket's slow-smoked flavor, the ideal pairing is a bock. "Bocks are full of toasty flavor with a balance of sweetness and toasted notes from the malt," he continues. "It complements the smoky profile from the brisket."

Toasted bocks complement Texas barbecue's smoky flavor

Texas barbecue actually has several regional styles, but when most people refer to it, they are referring to Central Texas-style, which gets its flavor not from the wood it's smoked with, not the sauce. "Texas-style barbecue has a smoky flavor profile that usually comes from smoking meat over oak and or mesquite wood," Stephen Alexander explains. And while Texas barbecue may be served with sauce on the side, it comes with nothing but a simple dry rub, which Alexander says is built around the basic flavors of salt and black pepper. Some spices like chili powder and garlic powder may be used, but the two big flavor profiles you are looking at are fatty meat and smoke. Bocks can vary in flavor profile, but they mix the lightly sweet malty flavor of darker beers with a more refreshing drinkability, which means they can stand up to barbecue's flavors but still cut through to balance a savory bite of brisket.

Thankfully Texas itself already produces one of the best-known bocks in America, Spoetzl Brewery's Shiner Bock, which developed from the same German immigrant traditions that influenced Texas barbecue. If you want to step outside Texas for your beer, there are popular bocks from brewers like Oregon's Rouge, and German breweries Weihenstephaner and Paulaner. These beers won't just go great with your Texas barbecue, they'll be delicious all by themselves.