We know it’s a challenge to pair the right beer and BBQ so we compiled helpful guides from the hundreds of winning pairings we’ve served throughout the years at the Old Irving Park Beer & BBQ Challenge in Chicago.

Basic Beer and BBQ Pairing Guide

Here’s our baseline: Porters/Stouts work best with all kinds of pork, like pulled pork. Ambers or brown beer work best with beef and or brisket. We like Hazy, clowdy IPAs for chicken or pork because of how light yet diverse it can be. And we love cider for more delicate proteins like seafood, especial smoked meat like salmon.

Beer and Veggie Pairing Guide

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Pairing Beer and with veggie BBQ is easy. Here some ideas: Berlinger Weisee (with a raspberry syrup as an example) paired with grilled veggies, Pilsner with Smoked Tofu, Black Lager (or a Schwartzbeir) with some vegan BBQ (like a seitan protein) and hearty BBQ sauce, and a nice Cream Ale with a grilled veggie burger with all of the toppings. Can’t go wrong with an ice cold beer and some healthy veggies!

Beer and Cheese Pairing Guide

Beer and BBQ food cheese Pairing guide

We love pairing beer and cheese. Belgium style beer with lactic character, and fruity, horsey, goaty and/or earthy aromas and flavors go well with soft ripened cheeses. Hoppy ales, like an American pale ale (APA), have high bitterness and citrus notes that would balance the boldness and chalkiness of a blue cheese. German-style lager brewed with rauch (smoked) malt with a smooth, smokey, almost BBQ finish. Perfect way to pick up a mild cheese. Tart, easy-drinking beer with a toasted malt character, subtle apricot flavor that’s a classic pairing with hard cheeses, and dry finish.  

Summer BBQ Pairing Guide

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Summer is Beer and BBQ season! Here’s how to do it right. Light, crisp lager goes best with a steak.  The high carbonation will be refreshing on a summer day and mild taste will allow you to enjoy all of the meatiness of the steak! For a big, greasy cheeseburger with char marks best go with an IPA.  A citrus variety like a Blood Orange with bitterness of hops can cut through the fat and cheese. Some how a nice light wheat beer with a hint of banana aroma goes with hot dogs.  Maybe it’s the contrast of aromas or just the light body that works. Try it. Finally, gotta do a refreshing, dry German style ale with a brat.  Easy on the topping and you can have a perfect match. Happy summer!

Beer and Sauces Pairing Guide

Beer and BBQ sauces pairing guide

Every main BBQ region of the coutry has different styles of sauces. Here’s the best way to pair them. Texas sauces are generally heavy on spices such as chili and ancho powder, therefore best to go with a light or refreshing beer that won’t compete with the flavors. Memphis sauces are usually thin, tangy, sweet tomato-based with garlic, paprika and other spices and geared for pork. Therefore heartier, malt-laden beer with sugary sweetness or acidic vinegar balance the sauce. Caroline sauces are heavy mustard-based and includes brown sugar and lots of vinegar.  You’ll need Ryle ale to cut through the acidity of the vinegar. Kansas City sauce are usually thick, made with tomatoes and molasses that make it sugary yet spicy.  A malty Dunkel will balance the molasses and the hops will smooth out the spiciness.