Posted on May 27th, 2010
With Memorial Day on Monday many of you may be planning to host or attend a celebratory cook out or barbecue to usher in the start of the summer season. Besides hamburgers and hot dogs there is nothing more essential for a great barbecue that a some refreshing beverages. Here’s our recommendation on five tasty brews that will go great with your next barbecue:
1. Pilsner – When most people think of pilsners they think of thin, watery beers like Coors or Budweiser. Although those might technically be considered in that style, they’ve been diluted and watered down so much that hardly resemble any real beer, let alone a traditional pilsner. It’s a shame, because a true pilsner can be just the thing too cool off while you fire up the grill. Real pilsner is light and refreshing with a clean, crisp hop flavor and notes of pine or grapefruit. Probably the most well known American craft pilsner is Prima Pils from Victory brewing out of Philadelphia. The Brooklyn Brewery also makes a mean pilsner and lager, which is slightly lighter.
2. Rauchbier – German for “smoke beer,” as you might expect, this beer tastes dark and smoky, much like barbecue. While it might be a bit intense for some, this brews taste makes it the perfect companion for slow cooked barbecue or anything else grilled over an open flame. Rauchbier remains a rare style, so you may have some trouble finding it, but if you can get your hands on one, it will be like no other beer you’ve had before. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen is by far the most popular version of this style and most readily available. For Collins Brewery, Flying Dog and Victory have all made versions of this style in the past, but they have mostly been one offs and seasonals.
3. Brown Ale – With their subtle maltiness and light but full-bodied flavor brown ale can be a perfect companion to grilled food. Personally I think the brown ale is one of the most underrated styles around and is also great way to introduce someone new to craft beer to a darker, more complex taste. Newcastle is of course the undisputed king of this style, but there are plenty other versions out there worth your time as well. Samuel Smith is another British brewer who makes a mean brown ale, with of course their signature buttery or diacetyl taste. Ellie’s Brown Dog from Avery is a great American brown ale and Smuttynose Old Brown Dog is also worth a taste. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to brown ale, leave us a comment below with your favorites.
4. Wheat beer – As I’ve said before beers made with wheat instead of barley are simply fantastic brews to have around the summer season. They are full bodied while still being light and crisp with fruity flavors often associated with warmer weather. Personally I like to go with a nice Hefeweizen like Paulaner or Julius Ecter but a wit can be enjoyable too, like Avery’s White Rascal, or the infamous Blue Moon. Whatever wheat beer you choose this weekend, you won’t regret it.
5. Saison – This style is often referred to as farmhouse ale, due to it’s origins as a thirst quencher on the farms of southern Belgium. While most farm hands probably no longer toss saison back while plowing the hand, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy some while firing up the grill. Saison is light and spicy, but it gets its peppery flavor not from hops but from real live spices, frequently coriander and grains of paradise. It’s one of the few traditional styles that makes extensive use of spices for flavor rather than just hops. The body is usually crisp, sweet and light, although much more full bodied than say a pilsner. Saison Dupont is the most well known of this style , and it’s a great place to start if you haven’t had many saisons in the past. Hennepin from Ommegang is a really wonderful American version worth a try, as it the Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin