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Looking to branch out in the beer aisle this summer?
We’ve spoken to beer expert Melissa Cole to get her top tips for picking out the perfect beers for your barbecue and beyond.
Below, Melissa reveals how to choose barbecue-friendly beers that bring out the best in your favourite foods and shares some beer recommendations to try this summer.
Top tips for fantastic summer feasts – how to choose the best food and drink
How to pick a beer that complements your summer spread
Melissa suggests using these four principles to help you find food and beer pairings that bring out the best in each other:
- Balance the power – make sure your beer and food choices are of equal intensity in the flavour stakes. A big booming IPA (India pale ale) will overpower a simple sausage but will work well with sweet, sticky ribs.
- Complementary flavours – look for a harmonious flavour in your beer and your dish to tie them together. For example, a lemony note in a pale ale could bring out the best in a citrusy salad dressing or fish dish.
- Contrasting flavours – having something contrasting can work too, to elevate simpler foodstuffs. For example, a quiche done well is an absolute joy, but is rarely going to be considered a headline dish. But pairing it with a bright, spritzy Belgian-style wheat beer that uses orange peel and coriander seeds in the brewing process can really contrast with the rich eggy base.
- Cut through – here’s where beer really comes into its own. Sour beers such as Berliner Weisses and Gose or mixed fermentation beers work well for this role. With their bright carbonation and similar acidity to white wine, they can be really refreshing when it comes to fatty dishes.
Best premium-style sausages – see our top-rated picks
Match your beer to your BBQ style
We asked Melissa for insider tips on beers that work well with popular barbecue fare. Here are her recommendations:
Don’t overthink it with basic barbecue foods, such as burgers, sausages, veggie skewers or lightly charred chicken – go with a lager. However, Melissa does suggest thinking beyond a pale pilsner and giving an amber style a go.
- Utopian Dark Lager (5.4%), 6 x 440ml, £18 – available from utopianbrewing.com
- Brooklyn Lager (5.2%), 4 x 330ml, £5 – available from Tesco
- Small Beer Dark Lager (1%), 350ml, £2.15 – available from ocado.com
When you’re looking to spice up your BBQ offering, you’ll want a softer, slightly sweeter beer with low bitterness. Look for classic German wheat beers (weizen, hefeweizen or weisse) or, for the more adventurous, New England IPAs (NEIPA).
- Salt Beer Factory Huckaback (5.5%), 4 x 440ml, £8 – available from Tesco
- Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (5.4%), 500ml, £2 – available from Sainsbury’s
- Andechs Wheat Beer (0.5%) 500ml, £2.22 – available from drydrinker.com
Kansas City or South Carolina styles of BBQ (or anything with a sweet glaze such as char siu) can really benefit from a biting bitterness to balance out that stickiness.
- Marble Cross Collar (5.2%), 500ml, £3.70 – available from marblebeers.com
- Stewart Brewing Radical Road (6.4%), 330ml, £1.80 – available from Sainsbury’s
- Big Drop Brewing Co Pine Trail Pale Ale (0.5%), 330ml, £1.25 – available from Morrisons
Low and slow
If you’re doing a long, slow cook of a very fatty and collagen-rich cut like pork or lamb shoulder, a fruity, sour beer is perfect.
- London Beer Factory Sour Solstice (4.8%), 330ml, £1.80 – available from Tesco
- Kriek Boon Cherry Lambic Ale (4%), 375ml, £3 – available from Waitrose
- Mikkeller Limbo (0.3%), 330ml, £3.60 – available from micro-beers.co.uk (no longer available)
Discover the best wine pairings for your favourite foods in our expert guide to matching food and wine
Try Radlers for a twist on shandies
One of the best trends to hit the UK’s shores in the past few years, according to Melissa, are Radlers.
Literally ‘riding beers’, they’re effectively posh shandies, ideal if you want to enjoy a few refreshing beers in the sun without feeling the effects of too much booze.
You can buy pre-mixed Schöfferhofer, Stiegl and Früh brands in some supermarkets or online, but it’s also easy to make your own.
To make a 2.5% radler, take a 5% wheat beer or lager and add the same volume of mixer – either lemonade or ginger beer work well.
*Prices correct as of 24 June 2021.
We asked Melissa to recommend three beers per category, including a low-alcohol option for each, and at least one product that can be found in a major supermarket.