Know Your Brew: Need Help With Figuring Out Which Type of (Craft) Beer You Should Get For Your BBQ?

Have no fear! I’ll try to give you a little insight here.

Hey Guys!

Here’s a question. Does red or white wine go with chicken?

If you’re worth your weight in gold, you said (well…silently thought probably) white. Of course that’s generalizing, and it can get way more specific. But you get my point. Whether you’re well versed in and perpetually bombarded with the fact that different wines needs to be paired with different types of foods. At least I have, and by social osmosis, you generally know a few do’s and do not’s.

But what if I told you (cue Morpheus picture) that food can also be paired with different types of beers. Even if you didn’t know that, it probably made you think “hmm, that makes sense. Why not?” Well glad you’re on board. That being said, in honor of the Fourth of July holiday weekend I want to try to help you know what you’re doing when it comes to stepping up your barbecue beer game (getting your craft on fleek, if you will).

I’m going to make the assumption here that you read the title and you want to know how you can throw a taste-tacular barbecue and get the proper beer for what you’re grilling/smoking/roasting/throwing on the rotisserie.

What Goes Into Pairing?

It’s a whole lot simpler than it seems like on the outside. We just have to think about the taste types that we’re going to be working with in the food and beer: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami. Then we have to take into account the intensity of flavor that we’re working with. When pairing beers, we need to make sure that we’re matching intensity with intensity. Take care that the beer strength does not overpower the food, vice-versa. Balance of the taste types is key here.

What Meat are You Cooking?


Grilling some steaks? Well, as soon as you invited me over for one, we can get started in picking out something to drink with it. A good steak has some juicy fat on it and some mouth-feel to it so we’d like to get something that can cut through that. However, since there’s very little saltiness or sweetness going on, we don’t need bitterness. So let’s stay away from too much hops. I’d suggest something malty and a bit sweet. That will also serve to complement any caramelization that you put on the steak. (Side note: If you put some spice on the steak, the sweetness of the beer can balance out that spice.)

So we’re looking to get a nice malty ale or stout possibly on the thicker side. That way we can get some complementary mouth-feel to the beer.

What I Might Reach For:

Brown Ale:

Maduro Brown Ale

Cigar City Brewing Company

ABV: 5.5%

He’Brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale

Shmaltz Brewing Company

ABV: 5.2%

American Stout:

Chocolate Stout

Rogue Ales

ABV: 6.0%

Sierra Nevada Stout

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

ABV: 6.5%


Of course there needs to be some chicken at the barbecue. The versatile white meat that is going to be agreeable with all meat eaters. This is a change up to the bold steak flavor. It is a white meat that presents a mild flavor, along with the sauce. So there isn’t anything that you have to worry about cutting through.

Here it is a better idea to look for a helles lager that will add a bit of bitterness to the flavors of the chicken. Again, here it’s important to realize whether you’re putting a lot of spice into the sauce. If you made a spicy jerk or Cajun sauce, it will be a good idea to go a bit sweeter on your ale. But I’ll assume here that we are going with your standard barbecue fare.

What I Might Reach For:

Helles Lager:

Hotter Than Helles Lager

Cigar City Brewing

ABV: 5.0%

Where The Helles Summer?

Southern Tier Brewing Company

ABV: 4.6%


MMMM…Ribs. I worked at a smokehouse for 3 years in college, and we served pork spare ribs and I would help smoke and cut up hundreds of racks of ribs a day. It was really hard and rough work, but I got to have access to buy some of the best barbecue that I’ve ever tasted.

It was a great experience, and something that I’ll never forget because it taught me what good smoked chicken and ribs should taste like. That said, rib sauces tend to have a bit of a spicy bite to them while being supported by a sweet. (Personal note: I love spice. I will always want a bit of hot sauce in my barbecue. So when I’m grilling, I’ll periodically coat with my hot sauce and barbecue sauce infusion. But I know not everyone likes spicy sauces. If you do though, make sure to lean on the sweeter side to balance out your spice as the spice in the barbecue sauce outweighs the sweet in the sauce.) Whether you have spicy or not, roasty or malty porters are best. You can also go with a good brown ale.

What I Might Reach For:

American Porter:

Night Swim

Coppertail Brewing Company

ABV: 6.2%

Black Marlin Porter

Ballast Point Brewing Company

ABV: 6.0%

Brown Ale:

Indian Brown Ale

Dogfish Head Brewery

ABV: 7.2%

Board Meeting

Port Brewing

ABV: 8.5%


So you’re grilling burgers today? Nice! Simple, but definitely a crowd pleaser. We’re going to need something a little dark and a little bitter to counteract the high fat and salt content of the burger. Our goal here is to cut through that saltiness and fat with unadulterated hops. So the general consensus from experts is that an IPA is the way to go here. However, some people may not want an IPA, so we can go with a porter. There’s no shame in people who don’t want to go full IPA. It’s understandable. Just pick up a nice malty porter that has a bit of smokiness to complement the grilled burgers.

What I Might Reach For:

American IPA:

Jai Alai

Cigar City Brewing

ABV: 7.5%

He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A.

Shmaltz Brewing Company

ABV: 10%

American Porter:

Smoked Porter

Stone Brewing Company

ABV: 5.9%

Founders Porter

Founders Brewing Company

ABV: 6.5%

Final Word:

Really, when it comes to your tastes, if you want to get a certain beer, you’re going to get that beer. I hope this helps lead you into the direction of the style of beer that you can pair. But feel free to either follow or ignore my suggestions of specific beers. I hope you like them.

Alright, that’s my time, and as always, if you liked this post, please follow. And if you didn’t, please follow anyway. And please leave me a comment where I can see your opinion, because you probably know more than I do.

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram, where you can keep current on all my beerscapades.

-The Glasshopper

Instagram: The_Glasshopper

Twitter: The_Glasshopper



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