Working at a brewery tends to make one well aware of the wonderful pairing that is a cold beer and a hot grill. In this handy little guide, we’ll give you some beer styles that we find to be particularly refreshing, some specific beer-and-food pairings that we love, and a little surprise idea for grilling that has been the hit of our barbecues recently.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
BEER STYLES PERFECT FOR ENJOYING WHILE GRILLING
Why ignore the elephant on the patio? Pilsners have dominated the world’s beer consciousness for a reason. They’re clear, light, balanced, and bubbly. And coming in at around 4-5%ABV, they’re the perfect beer to have a couple of while you’re outside by the grill. Flavor notes you can expect from a pilsner would include a bit of malty sweetness (which can be perceived in our take on a pilsner as notes of hay and melon), as well as a tinge of hoppy bitterness, just to round it all out.
Where pilsners are light, table beers can be even lighter. The most striking part of the style is its low (low) alcohol content: 1.5 – 3.0% ABV. Traditional table beers can be surprisingly varied in color, ranging from light blonde to midnight black. Our table beer, River Trip, is actually dry-hopped, making it a bit outside of this traditional style, while still being influenced by it. Really, the draw of the style for grilling time is that it still has the flavor to excite your palate while being light enough to enjoy a few.
We’re a Belgian-inspired brewery, so you know we have to shout out one of our favorite Belgian styles: the witbier, translated as “white beer” from Flemish. This beer is brewed with a significant portion of wheat, has a hazy appearance, and is brewed with a blend of spices. In Allagash White, you’ll find coriander and Curacao orange peel. Why is it great for grilling? You’ll find a hint of citrus in the aroma and flavor thanks to the spices. You’ll also find just a bit more body than the previous beers, as well as an ABV in the 5% range. In this option, you’ll find a bit more of a flavor experience, while still keeping it light enough for a hot summer day.
BEER AND GRILLED FOOD PAIRINGS
OUR FAVORITES AROUND THE FIRE
Truepenny Pilsner + Cheeseburger
When we talk about quintessential grilled items, the hamburger (often with cheese) still holds the top spot. And like we said earlier, the Pilsner is by far the #1 most-consumed style of beer on our planet. So why fight something this tried-and-true? In our minds, the benefits of this combo are many. For one, Pilsners are on the lighter and drier side: meaning their carbonation and light profile will wipe any fat on your palate clean. And a burger with melty cheese is certainly rich in fat in need of offsetting. There’s also the light notes of grain and yeast-derived fruit notes that won’t compete with a burger’s flavor, like a more intensely flavored or heavy beer—like an IPA or stout—would tend to do. Plus, it just tastes right.
River Trip + Red Snappers
We’re not talking about fish. Red snappers are a time-honored tradition here in Maine. They’re hot dogs with a distinctly red color on top of a “snappy” casing that has a bit more texture to it than your average frank. “So it’s a hot dog, but red?” you ask. Essentially, yes. But the key to this combo are the hops and toppings. Again, River Trip is a lighter beer, so you’ll still have that wonderful cleansing affect after each sip. But the dry hopping adds extra citrus and melon notes that are a wonderful pairing to the significantly-salty bite of a hot dog. Your toppings are up to you, but we’ve never gone wrong with ketchup, mustard, and relish.
Allagash White + Black Bean Burger
If you’re going to go with a vegetarian option, this one checks all of the boxes: it’s hearty, it’s widely available, and it rules. Usually, black bean burgers tend to have a bit of a spicy kick to them, which is just the reason why Allagash White is the beer for the job. On the heat side of things, Allagash White has a lovely pillowy mouthfeel that soothes the palate. But it also has a spicy side of its own—thanks to the coriander and curacao orange peel—and we’ve found that that spice tends to express itself in really interesting and tasty ways when paired with the spices usually found in a black bean burger. With or without cheese, this one is a winner.
A SURPRISE IDEA
SOMETHING TO SPICE UP YOUR NEXT GET-TOGETHER
Five words: grilled oysters with compound butter. Now hear us out. We absolutely understand why not everyone is willing to down a deliciously briny, fresh-shucked oyster. But we’ve met few people who can resist the temptation to try a grilled oyster with a dollop of compound butter. The oyster firms up and its briny juices mix with the simmering butter in a way that is both decadent and completely approachable. So how do you do it?
- Buy fresh oysters – the closer to your home, the better. If they’re open, or sound hollow when you tap them, they’re no good. Stick with oysters that are firmly shut.
- Shuck the oyster. We have a handy shucking guide (if you’ve never tried) right here.
- Keeping as much of the liquid as possible in the oyster, place it on the grill. If you’re having trouble arranging it on the grill top, try crinkling up some aluminum foil and laying that out on the grill top. The crinkled foil provides solid support for oddly shaped oysters.
- Add a dollop of compound butter on top of the oyster. You can make yours by mixing butter with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and herbs (chives or garlic are both top choices) or you could just buy a pre-made butter like those from Casco Bay Creamery.
- Wait for that oyster to bubble. As soon as the butter is bubbling, the oyster will be ready to eat—But wait a second after pulling it off the grill before you do; the shell and liquid gets hot!
This decadent and totally unexpected grilling treat will be the hit of your barbecue, we promise. And while we’ve found that Allagash White is a wonderful pairing for this little snack, you can honestly try whatever beer you like. It’s just that dang good.