This Is The Perfect Beer To Pair With A Classic Potato Salad

It's summertime, which means it's the season for outdoor cooking and backyard barbecues. While protein often rules the day with summer food, and it's certainly important to know the difference between barbecuing and grilling, you can't ignore side dishes. And while you've got a lot of side dish options, one of the best is a good old-fashioned potato salad.

Pairing drinks with cookout food is just as important as pairing side dishes, and if you're looking to get your drink on at the same time as your meal, what's the best beer you can pair with potato salad? The answer varies greatly based on how your potato salad is seasoned; there's not simply a one-size-fits-all solution. In particular, which herbs you choose will determine your best choices, and different herbs will each have their own beers that bring out their notes in the best possible way. If you're talking about dill, one of the most common potato salad herbs, Felipe Diaz, bar manager and sommelier at Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has a suggestion: Go for Mexican-style lagers.

Dill marries well with crisper, more bitter flavors like those in Mexican lager

Felipe Diaz is careful to note that pairing herbs with the right beer is important, saying, "Potato salad calls for something that will highlight the herbs that are featured in the dish" — you want a drink pairing that will make the herbs even herbier. When it comes to herbs in potato salad recipes, dill comes up quite often, and luckily, Diaz is ready with an answer for that pairing: Look for Mexican-style lagers. Diaz notes, "For a classic, dill-forward potato salad, I like to accompany it with a Mexican-style lager, where the hops will accentuate the herbal notes."

This isn't surprising, as dill tends to pair very well with lighter dishes like anything in the seafood category, owing to its citrus-like, grassy notes. It's all about balance, and the hops prevalent in Mexican-style lagers bring a bitterness that balances well against this. The beer itself is also crisp and refreshing and does not overpower the herb. The potatoes' natural, creamy, buttery qualities also round out the general flavor profile of both the dill and the beer, leading to a well-balanced combination.

Different seasonings pair well with different beers

Other seasonings will have their strengths, too. Gruit – beers made with bitter herbs that aren't hops – are an excellent pairing for any potato salad that makes heavy use of rosemary and/or thyme. A paler ale with low bitterness, like a French bieres de garde, is a perfect pairing if your potato salad leans into the tarragon. And potato salad flavored with things like coriander and lemongrass will go great with IPAs.

If you're looking for a general beer that will likely go well with most seasonings in a potato salad, your best all-around choice might be a wheat beer such as a Belgian ale or a hefeweizen, which you can distinguish based on its cloudy color. The fruity and light notes of a wheat beer are a great accompaniment to most potato salad seasonings because the beer doesn't overpower the herbs, so even if there's a better beer for that specific herb, you can't go wrong with this one (though wheat beers are noted for being a good match with oregano, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary). In general, the thing to know about pairing wheat beers with food is they go well with lighter dishes, so the heavier your potato salad, the less it will work.