Although it's a matter of contention, many folks would say that beer makes an even finer companion for food than wine. While the enthusiasts of either libation can battle it out forever, there's no question that on a warm summer afternoon nothing goes quite as well with a grilled cookout dinner than a cold beer. Whether you're serving up veggie kabobs, a plate of artisanal cheeses, succulent steamed lobster or s'mores over an open campfire, there's a beer for your particular dish. Consider these idea pairings when preparing your mid-July dinner party or Labor Day cookout.
1. Spiced meats and veggies with chiles or any kind of kick. For these savory but stinging entrees you'll want a heavy porter or stout – something to take the burn out of those spices. Look for something like Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from the North Coast Brewing Company or the Drayman's Porter from the Berkshire Brewing Company.
2. Grilled steaks, sausages and burgers. The Germans have excelled in sausage and beer production for centuries, so trust them with your cookout food. A simple Spaten lager makes a great light and crisp option. If you want to add a bit of sweetness, go with the more floral Franziskaner, which is also imported by Spaten but has a more Belgian taste.
3. Any variety of seafood. While there's plenty of micro-pairings within seafood (try lobster with a pint of Guinness!), a general rule of thumb should be to stick to ales. This includes everything from Rolling Rock Extra Pale to a classic Sierra Nevada. These beers go down smooth and taste great with a variety of fish and shellfish dishes.
4. Ice cream sandwiches, s'mores, parfaits or anything else sweet to cap off the night. Since too sweet a beer is a dessert unto itself, you won't want to go with something too heavy on the caramel or vanilla here. Instead seek out a thicker-bodied IPA like Otter Creek's Alpine Black IPA or the infamous Stone Brewing Company's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.
Think outside the wine box and invest in a few six packs before your next barbeque or holiday gathering. A little research goes a long way with beer pairings, so be adventurous and try different things. Consider a mini fridge like the kinds available at Gerhard's Appliances for a quick and easy outdoor bar. Enjoy responsibly and eat well.