Memorial Day marks the unofficial kick-off of the summer vacation season, and (hopefully) the beginning of ideal weather to break out the grill and have a barbecue. A lot of holidays have their signature beers: St. Paddy’s has Guinness, Halloween has an ever-growing multitude of pumpkin beers, but Memorial Day doesn’t necessarily have a traditional brew. With the expanding selection of craft beers hitting the shelf, how is a person supposed to choose the right suds for their get together? Luckily, we’ve assembled some tips to help navigate the craft beer aisles and ensure success for your Memorial Day shindig.
- Keep it light and low ABV.
A Memorial Day barbecue can be an all-day event. Think of it as a marathon, not a print. You don’t want to fill up too much on heavy brews like porters and stouts, or high alcohol double IPA’s. It would be a shame if you don’t save enough room for the plethora of foods coming off the grill. Stick to seasonal beers like Jack’s Abby Leisure Time Pale Lager or 21st Amendment Down to Earth Session IPA and you’ll be in the clear to make a dash for the burgers without falling down.
- Choose cans over bottles.
Now, we know there are a lot of bottle purists out there that say that they can taste the difference in beer from a bottle vs. beer from a can. And while it may have been true in your grandfather’s era, the simple truth is that canning technology has improved since then and the craft beer industry is moving towards using aluminum to transport their product to your taste buds. While we could get into that whole debate, it’s a topic for a future blog.
For the purposes of a Memorial Day picnic, cans just make sense. They are lighter to transport (a six pack of bottles weighs 40% more than a six pack of cans), and cans won’t shatter if someone drops one on your patio.
- Match the beer to the food on the menu.
In the food and beverage world, there is much ado about pairing wine to the meal you are eating. Why not extend beer the same courtesy? Heck, you can even use the same criteria when it comes to harmony and contrast.
Having a hamburger stacked with all the fixings?
A beer with strong hop character will cut through the fat in the burger and act as a palate cleanser between bites. Try a crisp pilsner like Victory Prima Pils or West Coast IPA with a fair amount of hop bitterness like Ballast Point Sculpin or something that has a balanced wheat and hop flavor like Driftwood Entangled. If hops aren’t your thing, you can always go with a maltier option like Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale to try to match the weight of the burger and back up the essence of the caramelization of the grilled meat with toasty, roasted flavors.
Grilling up some sausages?
Go with German (or German styles of) beer. After all, the Germans have mastered the art of pairing beer with encased meat. Try a light-bodied Kölsch (like Reissdorf) for mild bratwursts. Malty options like Von Trapp’s Vienna Style Lager or even Sam Adams Boston Lager (which, yes, is technically a Vienna Lager) can bring a caramel sweetness in between bites of a brat stacked with peppers or sauerkraut. Preparing sausages with bolder flavors? Rauchbier is a brew made from smoked malt that has an intense bacony, campfire essence that compliments smoked sausages perfectly. Give Aecht Schlenkerla Märzen a shot for a bold burst of flavor that will also compliment pork ribs.
Is seafood on the menu?
Belgian Witbiers (like Driftwood White Bark) are typically brewed with citrus and coriander bringing fruit and spice to complement the sweetness of marinated grilled shrimp or scallop skewers. Seafood is also an excellent time to break out a Gose (pronounced goes-uh). This refreshing kettle fermented sour style has a bright lemon acidity and pronounced saltiness that will match up with shellfish and grilled fish fillets alike. Pick one of Anderson Valley’s Goses or Dogfish Head Seaquench, which is a blend of Gose, Kölsch and tart Beliner Weisse with lime and sea salt. Also try
- Make sure to bring enough.
When it comes to gatherings, it’s always best to have too much beer on hand as opposed to running out. Fortunately, many craft brewers are embracing party-size packaging. New Belgium Dayblazer Ale, 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, and Founder’s All Day IPA and PC Pils are great choices to go with in a 15-pack can format.
To us, variety is the spice of life and commitment to one particular beer can be a daunting decision. Fortunately, if you don’t want to go all in on one kind of beer at the BBQ, most breweries make mixed 12 packs of their offerings. Cisco Brewing has just released their Beach Beer Box for the season which contains their core brands while Two Roads Brewing Beer Bus variety pack has the bases covered with a Pilsner, Hefeweizen, IPA, and a seasonal brew.
Following these guidelines should ensure that no one goes thirsty at your holiday barbecue Should you run out of refreshments, Kappy’s is open 12 am – 5 pm on Memorial Day. Just sayin’…
Please note: Not all products or packaging mentioned in this article are available in all Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits locations. Please speak with our knowledgeable staff for further recommendations.
Have a safe and Happy Memorial Day.
Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits