In the summertime, deciding which beer to bring to a backyard barbecue carries all the significance of the which-wine-for-dinner conundrum. Do you play it safe with an American classic or try to impress with a contemporary craft favorite? And what about flavor: sweet or bitter, light or full-bodied? We asked a group of beer aficionados and craft-scene stars with new books out, including Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy and Master Cicerone Mirella Amato, which brews they’d recommend bringing to a backyard bash. Here’s what they had to say.
Michael Larson, Beer: What to Drink Next
“When spring finally arrives, the backyard BBQ is not far behind. Most often, one doesn't know the specific fare to be served at said backyard bash. Maybe brats slathered in mustard and onions, or peppery firecracker shrimp, or it may be the simple go-to—a quarter pound of beef topped with oozing cheddar. Whatever the case, the bright, versatile saison will likely match. This citric, hoppy, spicy style is a chameleon of pairings, cutting through the richness of that cheeseburger, while fighting the spice of the shrimp. It's light and refreshing enough, however, to match a bed of fresh greens and vegetables splendidly. Saison Dupont, by Belgium's Brasserie Dupont, is a favorite and readily available. Ommegang of New York produces a delicious American version, as well: Hennepin is a wonderful take on the classic.”
About the expert: In Beer: What to Drink Next: Featuring the Beer Select-O-Pedia (Sterling Epicure, Mar.), which a received a starred review from PW, beer reviewer Michael Larson offers a kind of discovery engine for beer lovers seeking to broaden their horizons. Using a “periodic table of beer styles,” readers can select which styles they already like, and then receive recommendations based on those selections. When it comes to evaluating and recommending beers, Larson has certainly earned his chops: he’s the co-founder of the beer criticism website ThePerfectlyHappyMan.com, which, to date, has weighed in on more than 500 craft brews.
Steve Hindy, The Craft Beer Revolution
“Beer is indisputably the best beverage to pair with barbecue. I like to slow cook a dry-rubbed Boston butt in my Weber ‘bullet’ smoker for 12 hours and then pull it apart and serve it with baked beans, coleslaw, and pickles. I put several barbecue sauces on the table, but I prefer to eat it with no sauce. As they say at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, ‘Sauce is cheatin.’ For barbecue, I recommend Brooklyn Brown Ale, a rich, malty dark ale, or Brooklyn Local 2, a dark Belgian-style beer fortified with raw sugar. For those who prefer lighter beers: Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, a hoppy but well-balanced ale, or Brookyn Sorachi Ace, a Belgian saison-style beer made with the Sorachi Ace hop, originally grown in northern Japan.”
About the expert: Steve Hindy is the co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery, which has been in operation for more than 25 years and is currently the ninth largest craft beer brewery in the United States, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. His book, The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink (Pan Macmillan, Apr.), looks at the rise of the craft beer industry over the last 40 years, tracking how businesses like Dogfish Head and Harpoon have transformed from blips on the brewing-scene radar to formidable tastemakers and competitors in the global beer market.
Mirella Amato, Beerology
“English-style brown ales are very tasty with burgers. These beers present a complex blend of fruity, herbal, and earthy flavors that will interact with the various toppings on the burger. The subtle roasted notes in brown ales, meanwhile, will tie in nicely with the light charring on the meat. Pulled pork calls for American-style amber ales. The sweeter caramel malt tones in these beers will meet the sweetness of the sauce while an assertive hop bitterness will provide a lovely counterpoint, cutting through the rich, full flavor of the sandwich. Vienna-style lagers, and amber lagers in general, are a great accompaniment for grilled veggies. These beers are generally delicate, allowing the vegetables to shine through, and the toasted malts in these beers provide notes that mirror the deeper grilled flavors.”
About the expert: Whether she’s appearing on TV to talk about beer or offering tasting and consultation services through her company, Beerology, Mirella Amato is a beer-world star—one of only seven people on the globe (and the first person outside the U.S.) to earn the title of Master Cicerone, the highest level of certification from an organization working to give the beer world the equivalent of a sommelier. Her first book, Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer…Even More (Appetite by Random House, May), offers a comprehensive guide to the history, production, taxonomy, and culture of beer that aims to help turn any brew naïf into a discerning, tasting party hosting connoisseur.
Josh Christie, The Handbook of Porters & Stouts
According to Christie, Colorado’s Wynkoop Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout is “made to go with grilled meats,” while he describes California’s Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Stout as a “great big stout to go with grilled steak.” On the porter side, he recommends Founders Porter out of Michigan as another good option for barbecue. “For dessert—better than dessert,” Christie suggests trying New York’s Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout, which he says is “great for impressive ice-cream floats.” And for beer drinkers in Canada: Glutenberg Imperial Stolton, a gluten-free, blonde imperial stout that Christie says will “knock your friends right out!”
About the expert: In their forthcoming book, The Handbook of Porters and Stouts: The Ultimate, Complete and Definitive Guide (Cider Mill Press, Sept.), beer reviewer Chad Polenz and bookseller/author Josh Christie (Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland) offer a primer on porters and stouts—brawny, dark, and big-flavored styles of beer that were first popularized in 18th-century England and are making a comeback. To help readers navigate these inky and potentially imposing beers, the authors provide reviews, pairing tips, and insight into today’s brewing scene.
John Carruthers and Jesse Valenciani, ManBQue: Meat. Beer. Rock and Roll.
John Carruthers: “If I’m standing in front of the corner store beer fridge before a cookout, I’m reaching for Half Acre’s Akari Shogun wheat ale. It’s a really refreshing choice for grilled meat and day drinking, brewed just down the road from where I live. Plus, the can features a futuristic-looking demon/samurai/lion creature, and sometimes that’s just the impression I want to make.”
Jesse Valenciana: "When it's BBQ season in Chicago, I always have Goose Island Honkers Ale chilled and ready to go. Honkers Ale is a perfectly malty ESB that goes great with those delicious burgers and brats coming off the grill. It's also a very sessionable ale, so you can have a few and remain upright, which is important because a good BBQ is an all day/night affair."
About the experts: John Carruthers and Jesse Valenciana get as excited about food as they do about beer. When they’re not weighing the pros and cons of and overly hoppy ale, they’re testing recipes for beer cheese and lobster rolls or perfecting the ideal meat sear. In their book, ManBQue: Meat. Beer. Rock and Roll. (Running Press, Apr.), they offer menus, cooking advice, and beer pairing recommendations with the signature humor, attitude, and enthusiasm their ManBQue.com readers (and Twitter followers) have come to love and trust. (Click here to read more about the story behind ManBQue.)