Nothing compares to a cold draft beer on a warm, summer day, and whether you’re involved in brewery management or simply an avid beer lover, one great way to highlight the unique notes in your favorite summer ales is to pair them with a delicious dish. When it comes to pairing your draft beers with food, certain spices and flavors fare way better with each other than others.
Not sure where to start? Here are our top ten food and brew combos for you to try this summer:
1. Blonde Ales
Blonde or golden ales are refreshing, light, and crisp — the quintessential summer beer. Their effervescent flavors make them an ideal complement to almost any meal, though they pair particularly well with spicy, savory dishes like Asian or Latin American cuisine. The sweet, fruity notes find a nice balance between enhancing the deeper flavors of fiery dishes and cooling the different levels of heat. Enjoy blonde ales directly from an automatic beer tap with spicy pad thai, fiery jalapeño poppers, or camarones a la diabla.
2. Dark Belgian Ale
When people think of rich, dark ales, they usually associate them with the colder, winter months. Notes of molasses, brown sugar, and creaminess are exactly what beer-lovers crave when temperatures drop. However, this brew holds its own when it gets hot out, too. Dark Belgian ales pair perfectly with the hearty proteins found in typical summertime bbq dishes like pulled pork, smoked sausage, and grilled salmon. This is one well-rounded brew that works all year round.
A shandy is another go-to brew for warm, sunny days. This crisp, refreshing drink is a mixture of beer and lemon-lime soda, making it a fruity, refreshing summer favorite. For the ultimate shandy, use a beer flavored with tropical fruit purees like orange, pineapple, grapefruit, and more. This fruity brew delivers all kinds of fun, summery flavor profiles and pairs perfectly with fresh ingredients like those found in sandwich wraps or caesar salads. It also pairs exceptionally well with fish-based dishes like fish tacos.
Pilsner lagers are light and easy to drink, making them perfect for summer. With many different interpretations, like strawberry and passionfruit, their distinct fruity and fizzy notes accompany spicy dishes perfectly. Like blonde ales, pilsners help offset the heat found in dishes like hot wings, buffalo chicken, or chipotle turkey wraps. The crisp, fruity flavor of the pilsner lager helps even out the spiciness in more fiery dishes, as well.
5. India Pale Ales
IPAs are full-bodied, hoppy, and bitter. Finding food that complements their strong flavors isn’t that tricky, though. This strong ale pairs with dishes that are similarly bold and flavorful — carne asada tacos, bbq burgers, deep-fried meats, and french fries all accompany IPAs nicely. The strong hoppiness of an IPA can also help wash away flavors of different foods, making it a great palate cleanser between dishes.
6. Mexican Ales & Lagers
Besides Margaritas, nothing goes better with Mexican cuisine than delicious, Mexican beer. While these brews range in hoppiness, their depth and fuller flavors help to enhance traditional Mexican dishes like slow-cooked barbacoa, queso fundido, chicken fajitas, and even desserts like tres leches, sopapillas, and churros. All of these Mexican dishes are year-round favorites, but let’s be honest — nothing beats an ice-cold Pacifico Clara and fresh shrimp tacos on the beach.
7. Sour Ales
Tart, sour beers get their acidic complexity from having been brewed with “wild” microorganisms. While these wild fermented ales range in color and bitterness, they pair exceptionally well with strongly flavored cheeses, beefy dishes, and tart, creamy desserts like peach cobbler or cherry pie. Their complex, acidic, and often fruity flavor profiles make for a unique, refreshing ale that accompanies most summertime desserts exquisitely.
8. Bock Beer
Bock beer is Pilsner’s big cousin — a little stronger with malty, yet light flavors, this German ale dates back to medieval times. This brew just hits different on those rainy, summer afternoons. It pairs perfectly with full-flavored and filling meals like BBQ pulled chicken, deep-dish pizza, and smoked fish dip. Bock beers aren’t dark or very filling, making them a brew that pairs beautifully with comfort foods. Like IPAs, bock beer also makes an amazing palate cleanser between different foods.
Stouts are another strongly flavored beer that most people think of when it gets cold. They tend to have heavy notes of malt, chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon, pairing perfectly with rich, flavorful dishes like those we tend to enjoy around the holidays. However, if you’re looking for a nice morning brew on your summer vacation, stout ales are your best friend. They pair phenomenally with rich, maple-heavy french toast or a simple plate of bacon and eggs. Who says you can’t have beer for breakfast?
10. Hard Seltzers
Finally, it wouldn’t be a 21st-century summer without hard seltzers. Unlike beer that uses grains in the fermentation process, most seltzers skip this step and go directly to fermenting sugar in water. Many, however, are malt-based which technically still puts them in the beer category. With infinite flavor options, these fizzy and low-cal spiked seltzers go great with fruity salads, veggie stir-frys, and fried foods like coconut shrimp.
Julia Nikolaus is a content strategist for an LA-based company. She enjoys working with food and drink brands along with beauty and fashion clients. In her free time, Julia likes to bake new recipes, take dance classes, and spend time outdoors.