How To Pair Beer With Grilled Foods

Professional advice on how to pair good beer with grilled foods

May is Grilling Month at Tasting Table.

We like pairing grilled hot dogs with frosty cans of bodega beer as much as the next guy, but this summer, we're vowing to elevate our backyard beer game. So, we asked The Publican's Beer and Wine Coordinator, Rebekah Graham, to help us pair five of our favorite grilled foods with awesome beers.

"I like to match flavors and textures present in the beer with similar ones in the particular dish," says Graham. Here are her suggestions.

With Seafood: Saisons

Graham says: "Saisons and bières de garde (their French-style cousins) are exceptionally versatile for pairing with food. They often have a 'baking bread' quality that's delightful with shellfish and oysters, and their high carbonation clears and freshens the palate with each sip. These qualities also work for stronger fish flavors, even smoked fish."

Try This: North Coast Brewing Co. Le Merle ($9 for a 750-milliliter bottle)

With Hot Dogs: Dry India Pale Ales

Graham says: "Here's a great chance to enjoy an IPA with food—a beer that's typically a pain in the neck to pair. If it's a Chicago-style dog—which, let's be honest, is really the only way to eat one—then something light-bodied, dry and citrusy is a great match."

Try This: Stone Brewing Cali-Belgique IPA ($11 for a six-pack)

With Grilled Chicken: Brown Ales

Graham says: "Chicken is a blank canvas, so with grilled and charred flavors, I'd reach for a malt-forward beer. Pretty much any malty style would work, but my favorite is Rochefort 6, a Belgian Trappist dubbel. The char really brings out the beer's inherent fruit and chocolate flavors. It's dynamite!"

Try This: Trappistes Rochefort 6 ($6.50 for an 11-ounce bottle)

With Grilled Lamb Chops: Sour Ales

Graham says: "Lamb has a reputation as gamey, so choose something balanced, but slightly off-kilter, too, like a sour brown ale. A good sour is all about balancing tart and bittersweet flavors, and one of my favorites is Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Noire. It's on the maltier side, but still has plenty of depth and funk. Serve it with chops and some bitter veggies, like grilled rapini, and you're all set."

Try This: Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire ($13 for a 750-milliliter bottle)

With Burgers: Black Beers

Graham says: "Beef is a protein that calls out for texture, so choose a dark beer with some fortitude. If your toppings are fresh and crunchy, like lettuce, tomato and onion, go with a German-style schwarzbier. For ones with more intense flavors—say, grilled mushrooms or a strong cheese—try a porter, or even a coffee stout."

Try This: Off Color Scurry ($10.50 for a four-pack) or Founders Breakfast Stout ($3 for a 12-ounce bottle)