Complement your next outdoor get together with the right libations

Grilling season is finally here again! If you’ve ever asked the question, “What wine should I serve with my cedar-plank salmon?” allow us to help.

Steaks and hamburgers are staples for seasoned grill masters. While many think that any red wine or their go-to beer are fine with steak, there are some varietals that complement them best. For beer, Williams-Sonoma recommends a porter or an India pale ale. And for wines, high-tannin wines such as cabernets pair well with the heavy protein of a steak.

Wine with a hamburger? If it’s not loaded with cheese or heavy condiments, a peppery zinfandel or a pinot noir work well. Cheeseburger? Think cabernet.

The wine and beer you serve with salmon will differ from what’s best for lighter fishes like tilapia or walleye. Generally, the lighter the fish, the lighter the wine. Sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are good for walleye, tilapia and shrimp, but even an oaky Chardonnay works because of the smokiness infused into the fish. For cedar-plank grilled salmon, Syrah or Grenache go nicely.

For beer, many recommend an India pale ale with cedar-plank grilled salmon, as the beer’s hoppiness works well with the earthiness of the cedar absorbed by the fish. Salmon grilled directly on the grate calls for a malty or slightly sweet brew, like a pale ale or brown ale. Going with a lighter fish? Look for a wheat beer or hefeweizen.

Straight-up grilled chicken, perhaps marinated in Italian dressing, works well with sauvignon blanc, but put a sweet barbecue sauce on that bird and you’ll want to serve a sweeter wine, such as a Riesling. If your barbecue sauce has more spice than sweet, you can get away with a zinfandel, which accentuates the spicy and the smokiness in the meat.

Beers to pair with grilled chicken? Serve a dark, rich porter or a lighter lager with a hint of nuttiness. Epicurious says, “Fowl finds its best match in a rustic, farmhouse-house style ale.”

Beer and brats – an American staple. But what kind of beer is best? Some would say any beer will do, but Food Republic recommends a dark, crisp lager. For you wine drinkers, might we suggest you try a beer with your brat?

Mixed Meats
So, what if you’re grilling up a variety of meats and want to buy just one kind of beer or wine? A brown lager and a pinot noir are safe bets, as they pair well with a variety of meats bathed with smoky goodness.

There are plenty of opinions, some conflicting, as to the best libations for grilled foods. But none of them have the last word – you do. We recommend pairing your grilled wonders with whatever pleases your palette.

Yes indeed, it’s grilling season. Call some friends. Fire up the grill. Lift your glasses and toast to the best time of year!

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