The Best Styles Of Beer To Pair With Barbecue

Barbecue means something different in every part of the United States. Though it most often involves slow-smoked meats, such as ribs and brisket, its style, history, and flavor profile vary in experience from city to city.

Barbecue made its way from the Caribbean to the United States in the 1500s, after Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola and saw the cooking method indigenous tribes used to properly cook their meat: over an indirect flame, separated by wood. The technique was introduced to the colonies, and barbecue became a popular cooking method in the United States. Over time, different regions developed different styles for preparing that style of food. Today, you'll find mostly pork-based barbecue in Memphis, Tennessee, complete with a dry rub or light sauce. Down in Texas, it's all about the brisket. In terms of sauces, Kansas City is traditionally sweet and smoky, while parts of North Carolina have a more acidic, ketchup-based sauce.

One thing most regions can agree on is that nothing pairs with barbecue quite like an ice-cold beer. However, before you reach for a cold one, you might want to understand which brew pairs best with your dish.

The best beers for your barbecue

When it comes to the best beer for your barbecue, what you choose will depend on the type of meat you're eating, as well as the sauce or dry rub's flavor. The Old Irving Park Beer & BBQ Challenge says that if you're going for pulled pork, you should try pairing it with something dark, such as a stout or porter. That's because dark beers tend to have deep, rich flavors that contrast well with pulled pork's savory flavor. In contrast, beef brisket has a high fat content, so you'll want to pair it with something slightly lighter but with a strong malt flavor, such as an amber ale. Lighter meat like chicken needs an even lighter brew pairing, and the hops and citrus often found in a hazy IPA are strong complements.

Ultimately, it depends on your personal palate, too. If you're not interested in extremely dark stouts, don't force yourself to drink them because the pros say so. Palates vary, so if you're a pilsner person, we're certain that light, refreshingly crisp sip will contrast well with a meaty brisket.

Other drinks that pair well with barbecue

You might not love beer (not everyone does – in fact, some people naturally hate it), but that doesn't mean you can't responsibly enjoy a different alcoholic beverage while indulging in your favorite barbecue. Steak, for example, is commonly paired with red wine, which means red wine would still go well with meats of a similar nature, such as brisket or beef ribs. If you're looking for something sweet to contrast barbecue's savory smokiness, a wine like rosé might be a good option, or a sugar-rich cocktail, such as a Cosmopolitan. Our bodies crave a sweet and salty combination — the same reason you often order a soda with a burger. In this case, something like a Cosmo would offer that balance.

Of course, you're never obligated to drink alcohol with any meal, barbecue included; there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages that make the perfect pairing. In the Carolinas, sweet tea is an essential part of a barbecue meal; the sugar contrasts perfectly with the fatty meat and savory acidity of the sauce. Lemonade and soda are excellent choices as well, and of course, you can't go wrong with an old-fashioned glass of ice water.