This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.
Happy upcoming Fourth of July weekend, everybody! We’ve got a lot to celebrate this week, and for many of you, this will be a great chance to get together a little like old times. For me in the summer, that means breaking out the grill and having a few brews. In the spirit of that celebration and to toast the incredible fireworks show put on down the street by my neighbors, I’ve put together some beer and food pairings based on what might be on your menu this Fourth.
The classic all-American hot dog calls for another classic with the American lager. I like to keep it fairly simple and avoid anything too hoppy or complex. The Bingo Lager is an overwhelming favorite around here and would excel in this application. Based on the Helles style, you’ve got your balance and high drinkability here. Bonus points are rewarded for being a great value for a six pack of tall cans.
I love, love, love a porter with cheeseburgers off the grill. Especially if you’re cooking over charcoal, the roasty flavor of a porter pairs perfectly with the slight char of meat. The trick to this pairing is to not go too heavy and skip anything too adjunct laden. (Sorry coffee or coconut, you’re delicious sometimes, but I’m staying unburdened here.) My choice happens to come right from our backyard in the way of Port City’s Porter. Even at 7.2%, this dark ale won’t put you down for an early bedtime as long as you sip — not chug.
If veggie burgers are on the menu, it can be tough to give one recommendation that fits all the styles. If you’ve got something that looks and tastes more like meat, then I’d suggest the above porter or perhaps a dark lager. If you’re going with something that’s not hiding the fact that it’s full of veggies, a slightly more flavorful ale like a saison is a good choice. In the summertime heat, a grisette is a fantastic option, and we happen to have one that I thoroughly enjoy from Elder Pine. The Grizzette is going to be very similar in style to a saison but with generally a lower amount of alcohol for a much more sessionable choice.
Grilled chicken is another fantastic Fourth of July option. It also lends itself to a number of different preparations. If you’ve got a simple grilled chicken breast, I like an American wheat beer, particularly with a little citrus to brighten things up, and I’d recommend grabbing the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. Maybe you’re thinking of adding a sweet barbecue sauce to some grilled thighs in which case I’d switch over to a classic California Common or Steam beer. When in doubt, I say go for the classic Anchor Steam (now in cans with the divisive new labels as well!). If wings or any other liberal use of the Buffalo-style sauce is in the plans a West Coast IPA is going to help accentuate that heat, and I couldn’t recommend the Front Royal Gracious Living any more highly.
If you’ve got brats or some other type of sausage hitting the grill, don’t overlook the Pale Ale. More malty varieties will complement the caramelization of meat and the hoppy varieties will bring up any spices. I say go best of both worlds with the Alpha King from 3 Floyds. It has a strong malt backbone with real classic piney and citrus hops.
Lastly, if you’re like my house and you’re deciding to smoke some pork shoulder this holiday weekend, I would implore you to consider pairing the payoff of your painstaking pork process with a wild fermented sour ale. Flanders red or Oud Brun with their hints of acetic acid are absolutely phenomenal in this pairing but are getting increasingly hard to find. I find that the quicker lactic-based sours like a Berliner Weiss or Gose are refreshing, but without the intense acidity, it just doesn’t cut through in the same way. It is a special bottle but also a special occasion, and I’d recommend opening up a bottle of one of my all-time favorites, the category busting Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. A Swiss Bier de Garde aged in a blend of different barrels and blended together once a year to create a vintage printed on the label. At 11%, this is definitely the highest octane beer on this list. I typically get people in the right mindset by comparing this to a sour barleywine, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps most important of all, don’t forget what to drink while you’re hanging out and grilling this amazing feast up. Low ABV and high refreshment are in high demand. I’m getting out there and recommending the Del’s Lemonade Shandy from Narragansett because it is delicious. Lemonade and beer — already blended perfectly in the can? I was trying to do that work myself, tinkering with ratios and combinations (limeade and a light Mexican-style lager win out if I feel like mixing myself), but if I’ve got more than two people coming over, that’s too much work! In the lightly tart and fruited category DuClaw’s Lil Sour Me America is branded for the occasion and also delivers all the classic flavors of those red, white and blue rocket pops I remember chasing the ice cream truck down for in the summer.
So that’s quite a few beers and, to be honest, if you want to drink a west coast IPA with your burger or a watermelon sour with your BBQ chicken, I say go for it. If you’ve got good food and good company, then that beer is always going to taste a little bit better. The experience and the setting play such a big part in pairings. As long as you don’t overthink it you’ll be in great shape. I’ve put together another collection on our website, but these are all also available in store as well so come in and see me.
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