Summer beer festivals and Fourth of July weekend are on the horizon, and the next few weeks hold the promise of beer pairings, smoky barbecues, fireworks and maybe even a little sun. And in the kitchen, you’ve got Dad’s secret spice rub prepped, chicken marinating, 10 lbs of sausages and your “Kiss the Cook” apron ironed out and ready to go – so what next? We went back to our interview with Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder and brewmaster at San Francisco’s 21st Amendment to bring you a few of his bbq food and beer pairings for your summer grill sessions.

Take it away, Shaun!

The Local Dish: First off, is there a rule of thumb when it comes to pairing beer with food? For example, with wine you’d usually want to pair reds with meats and whites with seafood – is there an equivalent rule for beer? 

Shaun O’Sullivan: Normal rules of pairing food and beer do not apply as you would find with wine. There are so many flavors in beer that are limited in wine that make the ability to contrast and complement your food pairings fun and exciting. The wide spectrum of flavors from sweet, chocolate, hoppy, bitter, and full-bodied are so diverse that there really is not one type of beer to pair with food, but here are a few.

A great tool when discovering inspiration is the CraftBeer.com pairing chart, giving you some ideas for putting food and beer together.

bbq beer pairings

TLD: Which beer would you recommend pairing with red meat and sausages?

Shaun: Amber ales go particularly well with hamburgers. The slight malt sweetness contrasts the heavy rich flavors of a burger. The carbonation or fizz in beer also has the added benefit of acting as a palette cleanser as the bubbles dance on your tongue rinsing the fat and allowing you to enjoy the burger’s meaty flavors. Look for a style that expresses a malt sweetness and slight bitter finish.

Sausages are well paired with porters that have a slight smokiness complementing the smokey nature and heartiness of sausages. I would recommend a beer with a rich chocolate flavor and slight malt sweetness.

bbq beer pairings

TLD: Awesome. Which beer would you recommend pairing with poultry?

Shaun: German style lagers are great with poultry dishes. The light crisp flavor of many lager beers with subtle complexity complements your fried or roast chicken. Plus they are great beers to enjoy while firing up your BBQ.

bbq beer pairings

TLD: And what about fish?

Shaun: Wheat beers are great with grilled fish. Their light wheat flavors and fruity aromas are perfect with salmon and other firm fish where the oiliness of the fish is contrasted by any effervescent flavors of a particular beer.

TLD: Say you are going to a July 4th bbq, and you’re looking for an overall, crowd-pleasing beer to bring to the party. What would you choose to bring and why?

Shaun: Hands down, 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. I might be a shill for this beer because I brew it, but it’s summer in a can*. This American-style wheat beer is light and refreshing and brewed with real watermelon juice giving this beer just the essence of the watermelon. It has your backyard BBQ written all over it; whether you are a first time craft beer drinker or a seasoned veteran and enjoy IPAs and big beers.

For an Oregon-produced wheat beer, look for Full Sail’s Session Watermelon Wheat Ale.

*We at TLD would like to second this statement. The Watermelon Wheat Beer is a crisp, delightful beer that is a welcome treat on a hot day. We recommend buying an extra case to hide in the bushes, because the shared stash will go fast – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Editor’s note: Article updated with information and images since first publish date.

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