10 great beer & wine pairings for summer foods

What to pour to match summer's big flavor foods

Matches made in heaven

Jeffery Cross

Matches made in heaven

Chipotle aioli on fish tacos, searing spices on ribs … It’s easy enough to reach for a cold one, but which beer works best with these foods? And what’s the wine lover to do?

We chose five favorite Sunset recipes and asked a beer and a wine expert to pick the ideal drink for each--and give additional tips on what to pair with popular types of summer foods. Self-described “publican” Sarah Pederson—who says a great beer and cheese pairing has been knownto make her “feel like turning on the Clash and setting off some fireworks”—owns Portland’s Saraveza craft beer shop and tavern. And Brandon Tebbe, a Master Sommelier, still craves thought-provoking reds (and a flavor challenge like this one) even after a long day guiding wine fans to exciting bottles for Synergy Fine Wines in Denver. Use their spot-on pairings to drink outside your beverage box this summer.

Baja Fried-Fish Tacos

Dan Goldberg

Baja Fried-Fish Tacos

Best beer: Nectar Ales “Nectar IPA.” “The citrusy hops make the tartar sauce pop,” Pederson says. “And the light malt flavor gives the fish a hug, instead of overpowering it.”

Best wine: Pacific Rim 2011 Wallula Vineyard Biodynamic Riesling (Horse Heaven Hills; $24). Tebbe’s take: “It refreshes your palate after every bite with notes of lemon-lime.”

Recipe: Baja Fried-Fish Tacos

Applewood-Smoked Spareribs

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Applewood-Smoked Spareribs

Best beer: Uinta “Anniversary” Barley Wine. “At 10.4 percent, the alcohol cuts through the rub, then the malt bellies up to the meat inside, balancing the spice with some sweetness.”

Best wine: Nickel & Nickel 2008 Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel (Russian River Valley; $53). “The lush blackberries, smoke, and pepper of the Zin are like liquid barbecue sauce.”

Recipe:  Applewood-Smoked Spareribs

Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Spicy Slaw

Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Spicy Slaw

Best beer: Lagunitas “Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ” Ale. “With mint, cilantro, and lime in the slaw, and citrus from hops in the beer, this tastes like summer! Pale malt melds it all.”

Best wine: The Infinite Monkey Theorem 2012 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon (Grand Valley, Colorado; $20). “It’s about acidity to counter the fried-fat factor and herbs in the slaw.”

Recipe: Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Spicy Slaw

The Cowboy Hot Dog

Annabelle Breakey

The Cowboy Hot Dog

Best beer: Fort George “1811” Lager. “Even though this dog is decked out in new big-bite flavors (bacon, barbecue sauce … ), I’m nostalgic for lager in a can to wash it all down.”

Best wine: Arizona Stronghold 2010 “Nachise” Red Rhône Blend (Cochise County, Arizona; $22). “It takes a little alcohol to handle bison, plus smokiness to hook up with the fixings.”

Recipe: The Cowboy Hot Dog

Ultimate S'more

Annabelle Breakey

Ultimate S'more

Best beer: Anderson Valley “Barney Flats” Oatmeal Stout. “The toastiness is great with melted marshmallow, and you can gab around a fire for hours with a 5.7 percent alcohol beer.”

Best wine: Ficklin “Aged 10 Years” Tawny Port (Madera; $28). “What could go with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate? Caramel and toasted nuts, of course (think port).”

Recipe: Ultimate S'more 

Pairing tips for meat

Iain Bagwell

Pairing tips for meat

Follow our experts’ principles to make your own terrific matches.

Sarah Pederson: A fatty piece of meat stands up to high-alcohol beers. If your meat is smoked, go for a malt-based one like a porter.

Brandon Tebbe: Tannins break down the fat in meat and vice versa, so put a wine with hefty tannins, like a Cabernet, with a well-marbled rib-eye.

 

 

Pairing tips for seafood

Thomas J. Story

Pairing tips for seafood

SP: Citrusy hops in beer do good things for seafood and the fresh herbs we tend to cook our fish with. But if it’s salmon on the grill, make it a malty altbier.

BT: Put light, crisp wines like Sauvignon Blanc with lighter, flakier fish and delicate shellfish like oysters; fuller-bodied, richer whites (Chardonnay) with fleshier fish and shellfish (lobster); light reds like Pinot Noir with meaty tuna, salmon, and swordfish; and bubbles with raw fish—they refresh your palate after every bite of crudo or sushi.

 

Pairing tips for fried foods

Annabelle Breakey

Pairing tips for fried foods

SP: Hops do the trick. A beer with a generous citrusy, bitter kick from West Coast hops gives your palate a lift between bites.

BT: Acidity is the key. It cleanses the palate for the next bite. Try Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, dry rosé, or bubbles.

 

Pairing tips for spicy food

Annabelle Breakey

Pairing tips for spicy food

SP: Hoppy beers are great. But with really hot stuff, it’s nice to have some malt.

BT: Avoid high-octane wines. The alcohol and heat accentuate each other. Go for lower-alcohol wines with generous fruit.

 

Pairing tips for dessert

Yunhee Kim

Pairing tips for dessert

SP: Chocolate and stout … yum.

BT: Make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert.

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