A Burger and a Beer: Summer Fare’s Classic Pair

Jun. 18, 2019


Burgers and beer, when done right, is one of the most satisfying grilled combos there is. However, the trick to enjoying the burger and beer experience to its fullest is to strike the appropriate balance of flavors between the burger, its toppings and the beer.

So, whether you’re firing up the grill to cook a classic beef burger, or a non-beef version, there’s a beer style that will complement your BBQ of choice perfectly.


Classic Beef Burger 

Suggested Pairings: American Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, American Lager

A classic beef burger is rich, meaty, speckled with fat and loaded with umami. Add on a few grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a slice of cheese, and you have a well-stacked flavor bomb. 

There are two ways to approach pairing a beer with the classic beer burger. The first it to match the burgers intensity of flavor with a beer that is equally intense, such as an American Pale Ale or India Pale Ale. Both of these beers have enough perceived bitterness and citrus notes to stand up to the fully topped burger.

The second approach is to pair this burger with an American Pilsner, which is light enough to let the beefy flavor shine, but finishes dry to quickly clean the palate and prime it for a second bite.

Left to Right: Odell Drum Roll American Pale Ale, Great Divide Denver Pale Ale, Monkucy Cold Snacks Lager, Stone Tropic of Thunder Lager, Upslope Craft Lager

Veggie Burger

Suggested Pairings: American Wheat Ale, Witbier, Belgian-style White Ale, Saison

The base for veggie burgers can vary greatly, from earthy mushrooms and black beans to nutty grains like bulgur and quinoa. When searching for a pairing that will work with a wide range of flavors and textures, reach for a goes-with-everything wheat-based ale, such as an American Wheat Ale, Witbier or Belgian-style White Ale. Soft, fruity and ever so slightly spicy, these beers can complement just about any summer dish and their dry finish keeps everything light and refreshing. A spirtzy Saison could work here as well.

Left to Right: Avery Rascal Belgion-style White Ale, Bell's Oberon Ale, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale


Salmon Burger

Suggested Pairings: Berliner Weiss, Gose, American Pilsner, Mexican Lager

Salmon’s oily texture makes it a challenging beer pairing. To keep all that heart-healthy oil in check, pair the salmon with a tart and effervescent Gose or Berliner Weiss. The higher acidity in these session sours will cut right through the oily flesh of the fish and the slight salinity in the beer ties everything together.

A crisp American Pilsner or light Mexican-style Lager would also slice through the rich profile of the fish to help rinse the palate.

Left to Right: Dogfish Head Sea Quench Session Sour, Dry Dock Sour Apricot, Firestone Walker Pivo Hoppy Pils, Ska Mexican Logger, Steamworks Colorado Kolsch


BBQ Chicken Burger

Suggestion Pairings: Amber Ale, American Brown Ale, Dark Lager, Apple Cider

This pairing is all about matching complementary flavors. While the chicken much leaner than a classic beef burger, the BBQ sauce marinade is going to provide the dish with a lot of sweet and smokey flavor. To complement the BBQ sauce's caramelized sugars, look for a beer that was brewed using crystal malts such as Amber Ales, American Brown Ales and Dark Lagers.

Crystal malts are made from barley in a process similar to that of making pale malts. Unlike pale malts, however, crystal malts are heated, cooked and kilned, which darkens the husk and caramelizes the sugars inside. This gives the malt a sweet and nutty flavor that, when brewed, paired perfectly with barbecued meats.

For customers watching their gluten intake, a dry or off-dry apple cider also provides a satisfying pairing as the sweetness of the cider complements the smokiness of the BBQ sauce on the chicken.

Left to Right: Denver Beer Co. Pretzel Assassin Amber Lager, Left Hand Sawthooth Ale, Odell 90 Shilling Ale, Stem Ciders Off-Dry Apple Cider

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