Smoke and beers
By Josh Noel Tribune Newspapers
Beer has a knack for complementing our most endearing comfort foods — you wouldn't pair hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza with wine, would you? — but it maintains a particularly fond relationship with barbecue.
Beer's bubbly brightness cuts through barbecue's fire and spice while refreshing and recharging the palate. At the same time, its complexity can complement the layers of flavor in any slab of meat. The three following styles do so particularly well, in order of lightest in flavor to most intense.
Some barbecue places are BYOB (Smoque BBQ, Honey 1 BBQ), which means a quick stop at the liquor store on your way to dinner can create the beer-barbecue pairing of your dreams.
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Others, like Lillie's Q and Smoke Daddy, have admirable beer lists with multiple styles. Even if they don't have these beers, they'll have something similar.
Also called farmhouse ales, saisons can pair with nearly any food, but they're a favorite with barbecue for being able to stand up to the richness and heat while cleansing the palate and challenging it ever so slightly.
Stateside Saison (Stillwater Artisanal Ales). Light, bright and tightly carbonated, this dry and refreshing brew is as good as pairings get for barbecued chicken.
Saison de Lis (Perennial Artisan Ales). Refreshing notes of earth and spice make this stand nicely beside barbecued chicken.
Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Boulevard Brewing). A classic in the genre, and a little higher in alcohol than most others. But its combination of clean brightness and muscle stand up to bigger meats, like pork and beef.
Pale ale/India pale ale
Refreshing, hop-forward beers boast enough flavor and aroma to stand up to barbecue, but crisper, drier styles work better than "hop bombs" that eviscerate the palate with a single sip. In other words, look for stronger pale ales and milder India pale ales.
Daisy Cutter (Half Acre Beer Company). Bright and clean despite its mild pine-and-citrus pungency, this pale ale boldly cuts through hearty flavors.
Red Chair NWPA (Deschutes Brewery). Copper colored and marvelously balanced, with just enough hop bite to offset a rich malty backbone. This could be a pulled pork sandwich's best friend.
Dubhe (Unita Brewing). This bold black IPA brewed with hemp is a boozy mouthful, but the elements come together to make a bold complement to a bold dish — like barbecued ribs.
Stout's milder cousin, porters are usually lighter in alcohol and body than their dark color implies, which is why they're ideal food beers. Notes of coffee, chocolate and roast mingle particularly well with beef and pork with a little char on it.
Edmund Fitzgerald (Great Lakes Brewing Company). A clean, dry, easy-drinking Midwest classic.
Baltic Porter (Uncommon Brewers). Thick, roasty and redolent of tobacco with light earthen touches of fennel that lend an almost foodlike complexity. Pairs particularly well with a molasses-based sauce.
Chief BlackHawk Porter (Tyranena Brewing Company). Expertly balanced to bring out the char in beef or pork. Better still, find one of Tyranena's limited-edition porters, such as The Devil Made Me Do It (a coffee oatmeal porter) or Benji's Smoked Imperial Porter (brewed with chipotle peppers).