Perfect Barbecue and Drink Pairings

barbecue-and-beer-crdt-Chrys Rynearson

Trying to figure out which drinks to pair with your barbecue plans for the upcoming holiday weekend? We rounded up a few expert suggestions.

Pitmaster John Lewis recently moved from La Barbecue in Austin, Texas to Charleston, South Carolina to helm Lewis Barbecue, slated to open later this year in the city’s Upper Peninsula. When eating a fatty brisket, he prefers a crisp, clean English Summer Ale, like the one he recently collaborated on with local Revelry Brewing. “It works because the richness of the meat plays well with the lightness of the beer. Typically, when you’re eating barbecue, you’re outside in the heat, so it’s nice to have a beer with lower alcohol—that way, you can drink several!”

Restauranteur Joe Carroll (known for his New York-based Fette Sau, Spuyten Duyvil and St. Anselm) dedicates three chapters of his book Feeding the Fire to different ways BBQ works with wine, beer and whiskey. His favorite match? Hard cider. “Barbecue is big, rich, smoky and sometimes spicy, and that usually means wine won’t work with it,” he says. “I think the best pairing is greatly overlooked, even though it’s as classically American as barbecue: cider. American ciders pair really well with barbecue and that little bit of sweetness can balance out some BBQ sauce heat.”

In his new book Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto, Texas barbecue hero Aaron Franklin advises to stay away from exceptionally hoppy beers which tend to overwhelm the palate. Instead, he says, “Czech- and German-style beers are a natural pairing for Central Texas–style barbecue. In warmer weather, I gravitate toward crisp, refreshing styles—think pilsner, Kölsch or Altbier. In the autumn and winter, I might go for one of the darker styles, like a bock or porter.”

Pat Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Tennessee reaches for several kinds of wine, depending on what meat is on the table. With pulled pork, he grabs Hogwash Rose from Beckstoffer Wines, because “acidity of a rose cuts the fat of the sandwich, and it’s very floral and opens up the flavors of the pulled pork.” For spare ribs, Pinot Noir works better, he says. “the seasoning of the rub is palatable but very bold so you need something fruity on the back end that stands up to that bold flavor, and a good Pinot Noir works well.” Finally, Riesling shines best with his famous chicken wings with Alabama white sauce, because  it’s sweet and acidic and offsets the fat from the white sauce, which has mayonnaise and the skin on the chicken. Like everything, it’s about balance, and this is one of my favorite pairings.”

Finally, John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que says he typically opts for an ice-cold beer. “I can go two ways with ribs: sometimes I like some cheap beer like Miller High Life; when ice-cold they bring just enough to the party without competing with the BBQ. Lately I’ve also been loving Founders All Day IPA. It’s easy drinking with just the right amount of hops.”