It’s a hot day. Sweat forms and then slips down your forehead. You have a spatula in your hand. Of course you do, it’s summer and you love to grill. And it just so happens to be your wife’s sister-in-law’s baby shower and you’re in charge of grilling the burgers, corn-on-the-cob, hot dogs and chicken patties. You got this. But you need just one more thing to get you through the hot, smoky task: a great beer. But which brew will carry you furthest, which will quench your charcoal-induced thirst best? Don’t worry. We got you.
While You’re Cooking: Go for something light. You don’t want your cooking acumen to be bogged down by a heavy belly. Not yet. The food coma comes later when everything’s done.
Try a Session IPA, something with hop and some citrus flavor (preferably grapefruit) to whet your whistle. Seattle’s Fremont Brewing, California’s Firestone Walker or New Jersey’s Carton Brewing all have great versions. But really, you can’t go wrong with any brand attempting this style.
If you can get your hands on a good version of these, you’re ahead of the chef-in-the-sun game. Blonde IPA’s are a bit softer on the palate than Session IPA’s. They’re lighter; think: down pillows versus foam. The best we’ve had comes from pFriem Brewing in Oregon.
While You’re Eating: Now that you’re at the table about to bite into some burgers, a more middle of the road beer is appropriate.
The Shiner Bock is a dark ale with a good amount of caramel malt flavor to accompany your favorite BBQ sauce or meaty meal. Try Spoetzl Brewery’s Shiner Bock from Texas.
Imperial Red Ale
Taking it a step further, a good Imperial Red Ale will have a bold body but also a sharp and big finish. One of our favorites comes from Oregon’s Double Mountain Brewery, which produces a perfect IRA to pair with a chicken sandwich topped with a little Monterey Jack cheese.
If you want something in this same spectrum, but you want a beer lighter than a Bock or IRA, shoot for an amber.
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There are many good Amber Ales, like the Arrogant Bastard or the Odin’s Gift, but just remember: whatever you’re getting in dependability in an Amber, you’re likely losing in wow factor. It’s often the ground-rule double of brews.
Post Meal: Now you can let your palate go wild. Try whatever you want.
If you’re stuffed but still want a brew, go for a light Pilsner or Lager. But if you’re ready for more flavor exploration, we suggest an ice cold Porter.
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Our favorites come from Deschutes Brewing and Stoup Brewing in the Pacific Northwest, but if you hunt in your local grocery store, we’re sure you can find the right punctuation to a perfect BBQ day of cooking, friends and exultation.