If You Love Barbecue For The Sides, Our Expert Says This Is The Perfect Beer Pairing

Barbecue is now one of America's most treasured native cuisines, starting at gas stations and butcher shops around the American South. In the beginning, butchers sold smoked meat with a slice or two of white bread and some pickles; however, side dishes have since expanded and diversified just as much as regional barbecue styles. They include other Southern soul food favorites like coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and pinto beans. Sides are quintessential complements to any barbecue platter, and a cold beer is the final element that can round out a barbecue meal.

Since sides are such a big deal, meat is no longer the only consideration when selecting beer for your cookout. To help you choose a beer that pairs well with the rich, creamy sides on your plate, we consulted an expert from the barbecue mecca of Texas. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Stephen Alexander, sales director for Tall City Brewing and member of Texas Craft Brewers Guild Board of Directors, recommended a blonde ale.

Alexander defined a blonde ale as having "a low to moderate hop bitterness with a bready, biscuity flavor and a lingering taste that will feel dry and sweet." A balance of dry, sweet, and bitter is both refreshing and versatile. Alexander goes on to say that a blonde ale is the perfect beer "to round out an array of sides."

Blonde ale is a classically American creation

Since barbecue is such a prized U.S. culinary tradition, a blonde-ale pairing will only add to its American sensibilities. Also known as a golden ale, the blonde ale was invented in the 1980s during the craft beer boom and proliferation of microbreweries. Brewmasters modeled the first blonde ales after lagers, attempting to create a refreshing, summertime beer that didn't require long resting times.

Named for their light, straw-like color, blonde ales were an instant hit and soon became a mainstay at breweries and pubs nationwide. As an ale, blondes are inherently more flavorful and complex than lagers, thus the basis for their appeal. They're still just as crisp and refreshing as a lager, making them a favorite for beating the heat. Stephen Alexander referred to blonde ales as "an easy-drinking beer [that] can be super crushable."

Because many barbecue sides are just as spiced, heavy, and rich as the meat they accompany, a beer that's easy to drink but that still offers a complex flavor profile is the optimal beverage pairing. It will complement — and stand up to — a plate of barbecue and sides without weighing you down, so you can reach for a second serving of potato salad and a second beer to wash it all down.