There are many theories as to why beer goes so well with barbeque. They range from the scientific (I’ve actually read that beer can absorb carcinogens on meat cooked over charcoal), to the sociological (the connection between working class food and drink), to the culinary (“if something tastes good, don’t question it”).
I like to think that beer should be drunk with barbeque because the two share an amazing regional quality. Ribs, like beer, are unique to wherever it’s made. Each regional variation of barbeque has its own sauce, and the belief that all others are inferior. In North Carolina, vinegar-based sauce is king, whereas South Carolinian barbeque has a mustard-base; that familiar tomato-y stuff most of us think of as “Bar-B-Q sauce” hails from Memphis.
As a Yankee with no sauce to pledge allegiance to, when I chow down on ‘que I try as many as possible with hopes of chancing upon just the right combination of flavours. The same approach should be taken to pairing beer with barbeque, and with all food. We need to go beyond the image of a suburban dad manning the grill, “kiss the cook” apron on, ice-cold light beer in hand.
As a general rule, when pairing food and beer try for a good match: hearty food requires hearty beer, more delicate food needs a pilsner or similar lager. You’ll soon find most food has a beer that will enhance its experience. For barbeque, it’s ale.
To test this theory I paired two beers against a spread of chicken, beef ribs, and pork ribs, all from Bofinger Barbeque Smokehouse (5667 Sherbrooke O.).
A trip to the ultimate beer depanneur, Super Marché Rahman – known to many as “La Paradis de la Bière” (151 Laurier O.) – yielded an imperial IPA brewed especially for Rahman by Au Maître Brasseur in Laval: La Paradisiac Cuivrée. It is a strong, hoppy beer that can stand up to the intense flavours of Bofinger’s ribs. At 7.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV), La Paradisiac Cuivrée has plenty of malty body to answer the intensely smoky meat, while the strong bitterness from the hops plays well with the flavourful sauce.
To eat with the chicken, which had a sweeter, apple cider vinegar sauce, I broke out the spoils of a recent trip to the States. Brother Adam’s Bragget Ale is a barleywine brewed with honey from Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor, Maine. Barleywines are very potent beers packed with malt, known for their alcohol and sweetness. The honey in Brother Adam’s Bragget keeps this sweetness in the foreground while an 11.8 ABV gives it enough balls for barbeque.
An equally appropriate, local choice is La Brune au Miel, from Microbrasserie du Lièvre. Though not a barleywine, this honey brown ale provides the answer to any finger-lickin’ sauce and a 6.5 ABV provides a little oomph.
Next time you head to Bofinger, or any barbeque joint, put some thought into what you’ll be drinking as you tuck into that smokey goodness. Sure Bofinger Moosehead on draft, but hopefully by now you will agree that such wimpy beers will hardly suffice.
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