With temperatures starting to warm up across the country, many of you are probably starting to think about taking the cover off the grill and getting back to eating outside. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that if you’re thinking about grilling again, you’re probably thinking about having a couple of cold ones in the backyard while you appreciate the sunshine. With that in mind, here are a few nice microbrews that are pretty easy to find, and should go well with grilled fish, chicken, or steaks.
Fish (Salmon, Trout)
Let’s assume you’ve decided on a nice, rich fish like salmon or trout. As you might assume, a beer with a citrusy flavor/aroma profile will tend to work nicely here. You also want a beer that will cut through the fishes’ oiliness with a refreshing degree of hoppiness. Finally, it’s advisable to avoid a beer that’s too heavy, like a stout or a porter. That said, these kinds of fish can stand up to a bit of body, so don’t reach for the lightest beer you can find, either. We recommend Deschutes (Bend, Oregon) Cascade Ale – or if you can’t find that, try a Sam Adams (Boston, Massachusetts) Boston Lager. Sam Adams isn’t the most obscure choice, but both of these beers are medium-bodied with fresh, citrusy profiles that should work great with your dish.
Few dishes are more simple than grilled chicken, but when done right, few dishes are tastier. Whether you’re working with breasts, wings, or thighs, you’ll want something that nicely complements the smokiness of the chicken and the sweetness of your typical barbecue sauce. Here, you’re looking for a brew that scores a little higher in the maltiness category, and doesn’t get too in your face with bitter, herbal hop character. Altbier (often referred to simply as “Alt”) is a great style to work with here. Full-bodied but not heavy, it’s a smooth, slightly sweet variety. If you can find it, Alaskan (Juneau, Alaska) Amber is one of the best examples of the style. If you’re on the east coast, try Long Trail (Bridgewater Corners, Vermont) Double Bag.
Flank steak, New York strip, filet mignon – you can’t go wrong with steaks on the grill, but the right beer can take your dish to the next level. Happily, you can go a couple of different directions here. If you think you’d like a robust beer that will complement your steak while minding its own business, a dark variety like a Brown Ale will work nicely. Brown Ales tend to be full-bodied and complex with notes of both sweetness and bitterness. Try Abita (Abita Springs, Louisiana) Turbodog if this sounds like you.
On the other hand, you may want a beer that can stand up to your steak a bit, and refreshingly cut through all of that big beef flavor. An in-your-face, hoppy ale is what you’re looking for in the case – go for an India Pale Ale (IPA), or if that sounds a bit too adventurous, try an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), which is basically a notch down on the hoppiness ladder from an IPA. If you’re looking to try an IPA, go with Stone (San Diego, California) if you’re on the west coast, or Harpoon (Boston, Massachusetts) IPA. If an ESB is more your style, look for Sierra Nevada (Chico, California) ESB.
If you haven’t already been inspired to fire up the grill in 2010, we hope you are now. Try two or three of these tasty brews and let us know what you think!