Food & Drink

Summer Beer Pairings

Suggestions for your next cookout from some of the South’s best brew shops

Photo: Margaret Houston

In recent years, craft breweries have blossomed from the rolling hills of Texas to the salty coast of North Carolina. It’s a blessing. With so many creative brews on the shelves these days, savvy drinkers can now treat beer like wine, choosing suds that complement what they’re washing down. But it can also be overwhelming. So we asked some of the best brew shops in the South for their recommendations on what to pair with a variety of summertime staples, from fried chicken and shrimp salad to, yes, even ice cream.

Serving: Heirloom Tomatoes


Westbrook Gose; Westbrook Brewing Co., Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
“I like salt on my tomatoes, so why not salt in a beer in a can? Westbrook Gose combines salt, coriander, and a bit of sour in a lager-bodied summer sizzler.”
Kraig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Atlanta, Georgia


RedBudIndependence Brewing Co.Austin, Texas
“This is a slightly tangy wheat beer, and the tanginess will bring out the acidity of the tomatoes.”—Jody Reyes, WhichCraft, Austin, Texas

Pilot Mountain Pale Ale
Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Ground Pounder Pale AleService Brewing Co., Savannah, Georgia
Rye Pale AleTerrapin Beer Co., Athens, Georgia
“The hoppiness of an American pale ale can provide some bitterness to support the sweetness of the tomato and give the acidity a pop at the same time.”—Brandon Plyler, Charleston Beer Exchange and Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, South Carolina

Serving: Chicken, Egg, or Shrimp Salad


Witbier; Community Beer Company, Dallas, Texas
“Witbiers are wheat beers with notes of orange and coriander. Their spiciness will complement the mildness of these dishes without overpowering them.”—Jody Reyes, WhichCraft, Austin, Texas


The First Squeeze; Raleigh Brewing, Raleigh, North Carolina
“It stands out among other witbiers thanks to a healthy squeeze of blood orange juice. The beer is delicate enough to partner with a rich and tasty mayonnaise-based chicken, egg, or shrimp salad while adding a delightful punch of citrus.”—Robin Madison, Bottle Revolution, Raleigh, North Carolina


Athena; Creature Comforts Brewing, Athens, Georgia
“The heavy mouthfeel of creamy salad needs some tartness. You also need a complement to the heavy doses of spice in many sides. This is a tart, funky, spicy, hazy, complicated but amazing summertime quaffer.”—Craig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Atlanta, Georgia

Serving: Burgers and Hot Dogs


Citra Ass Down; Against the Grain Brewery, Louisville, Kentucky
“If we’re talking about a traditional cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, or a classic hot dog, you can’t go wrong with a good IPA. With its abundant use of bitter citra hops and its respectable alcohol content, this one will cut through the fatty richness of beer, bacon, and cheddar.”—Lori Beck, Louisville Beer Store, Louisville, Kentucky


Black Thunder; Austin Beerworks, Austin, Texas
“Schwarzbiers are dark, German-style lagers with a roasted-malt heartiness that will stand up to the char of a burger or hot dog but won’t overwhelm your palate.”—Jody Reyes, Which Craft, Austin, Texas

(Burger) Kashmir IPA
; Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina
“I frequently go for an IPA with a burger, but not just any IPA will do. Made in the bold English style with a biscuity malt bill, it’s like a burger in a glass.”

(Hot Dog) Schwarzbier; The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, North Carolina
“For the hot dog, let’s presume a topping of peppers and onions, because it’s more fun that way. I highly recommend this schwarzbier. Dark in the glass but not heavy, it is the perfect beer for all of you stout lovers when the temperature is deep in the red.”— Kraig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Atlanta, Georgia

Margaret Houston

Serving: Fried Chicken


Double D’s Watermelon Lager; Deep River Brewing Co., Clayton, North Carolina
“I think the subtle sweetness of the watermelon embraces the salty, crispy chicken batter. It’s a light-bodied beer and a refreshing twist on a traditional picnic pairing.”—Robin Madison, Bottle Revolution, Raleigh, North Carolina

Recommendation: Ploughshare; Strange Land Brewery, Austin, Texas
“You don’t want to pair a salty, greasy dish like fried chicken with anything too heavy. The effervescence of a good saison will complement the crust, and its lemony zestiness will complement the meat itself.”—Jody Reyes, WhichCraft, Austin, Texas

Classic Saison; Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
Ashley Farmhouse Ale; Freehouse Brewery, North Charleston, South Carolina
Walloon; Southern Star Brewing, Conroe, Texas
“One of my favorite pairings with fried chicken is a wine, Grüner Veltliner. I think about beer that is also light and dry, perhaps with some white pepper on the nose that partners with the spicing of the chicken. Dry, bubbly, and slightly spicy spells saison to me. An important note: Saison pairs well with pretty much everything on this list, with the exception of dessert.” —Brandon Plyler, Charleston Beer Exchange and Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, South Carolina

Serving: Smoked Meats


Drafty Kilt; Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta, Georgia
“This is the layup. Gotta have a Scotch ale. A robust brown in the glass, this smooth talker will sail right through the pulled pork and onto dessert in no time flat.”— Kraig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Atlanta, Georgia

Recommendation: SUE; Yazoo Brewing Company, Nashville, Tennessee
“I’m not one to love a smoked beer on its own. But with the right food pairing, a smoked beer can provide a beautiful synergy of flavor. This robust porter balances the flavors of bacon, burnt wood, and tobacco with sweeter touches of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. It is likely to pair well with just about any smoked meat, but I would pair it with ribs or pulled pork, preferably with some heat.”—Lori Beck, Louisville Beer Store, Louisville, Kentucky

The Brown Note; Against the Grain Brewery, Louisville, Kentucky
Gaelic Ale; Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, North Carolina
Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale; Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, Kiln, Mississippi
“Most people will suggest a smoked beer. I find that the pairing of smoked beer and smoked meat works for about three bites, and that is not how I or any normal person eats ribs or pulled pork. I like to introduce softer, maltier beers that can balance the salt and set up a nice platform for the smoke to dance on.”—Brandon Plyler, Charleston Beer Exchange and Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, South Carolina

Serving: Pie and Ice Cream


Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale; Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, Kiln, Mississippi
“Were this not summer, I would gravitate toward a chocolate stout. That said, it is ninety-two degrees outside and I want something a little bit lighter. Enter this beer. It is fruity, moderately nutty, and brings some body to the ice cream as it melts in your mouth.”  — Kraig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, Atlanta, Georgia

Espresso Porter; Palmetto Brewing Company, Charleston, South Carolina
Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout; Quest Brewing Co., Greenville, South Carolina
“I like to balance sweetness with coffee and other roasted flavors and aromas. Who doesn’t love a cup of coffee with dessert?”—Brandon Plyler, Charleston Beer Exchange and Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, South Carolina