This summer, explore the host of unique American craft beers and wines with your favorite warm-weather meals. There are lots of exciting options, like chilled red wines with seafood and rich chocolate and coffee porters for dessert. And just for fun, try some sparkling wine between courses.
Grilled foods are easy to pair with beer and wine despite their bold flavors and aromas. Instead of trying to match wine or beer to a food's floral and grassy flavors, or to counter its sour and bitter sensations, just focus on choosing a drink that tastes good with one thing: the grill and its effect on foods.
A wine's ease of drinking or how well it "goes down" lets you know if it's a candidate for a grill pairing. Stay away from tannic wines. Go instead for wines and beers with taste descriptors like grassy, supple, fruity, crisp and bright.
Grüner veltliner (grassy, fruity), chardonnay (fruity with notes of melon and citrus) and Riesling (pleasantly acidic, fruity with pineapple, citrus and honeycrisp apple) all work well with grilled pork, poultry and beef. You don't need to shy away from reds if you seek chillable varieties such as Beaujolais or those that use Grenache as the primary grape.
Similar guidelines apply to beer but you have a little more latitude in choice. Match grilled foods like burgers, chicken and sausages with Goose IPA from Goose Island Beer Company, Full Sail Pilsner from Full Sail Brewing Company, and Troegs Amber Ale from Troegs Brewing Company. Other beer varieties to try include lagers, brown ales and smoked porters.
Seafood has a "pair without a care" reputation when it comes to wine – if it's light, crisp and made with a white grape, it works. But although light and crisp whites almost always work with fish and shellfish, you'll limit your experience unless you step out of the chardonnay and sauvignon blanc comfort zone.
Chillable reds, low-cost, high-quality sparklings and dry rosés are underrated varieties to include with your seafood dishes this summer. Try to include 2012 Bellenda San Fermo Brut Prosecco, with its touch of spice and nectarine fruitiness, among your sparklings. NV Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, which is lightly toasted and crisp, works well too. Rosés to look for include 2012 Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese, which is citrusy, and 2012 Vera Vinho Verde Rosé, a tangy wine that's best served very cold. Other chillable reds include 2010 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir with its bright, juicy fruits, and Orlegi Rioja with black cherry and powdery tannins.
Pair summer seafood dishes with American pale lagers, such as Hoponius Union from Jack's Abby Brewing and Otter Creek Citra Mantra from Otter Creek Brewing. Also try saisons, a Flemish style, such as Hennepin Farmhouse Saison from Brewery Ommegang and Helios from Victory Brewing Company.
A bounty of beans, greens and fruits stock our kitchens in the summer, so it’s a great time to go vegan, vegetarian or just simply add a new vegetarian dish to your repertoire. It's also a fitting time to explore some new wines and beers to go along with these dishes.
On the wine side, try 2010 Chivite Gran Feudo Rosado Navarra with veggie burgers and hummus– it's flavors of cherry and apple make it a natural pairing. Also try 2009 Domaine Christian Moreau Père & Fils Chablis with mineral and lemon hints, or Château de la Roulerie 2014 Chenin Blanc (Anjou), a tangy, citrusy wine, great for serving alongside mixed vegetables or tomato-heavy dishes like ratatouille.
Try American red ales, such as Imperial Red Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company, or Bière de garde-style beers such as Bier de Mars by Brewery Ommegang. American pale ales like Dale's Pale Ale by Oscar Blues will also pair well with vegetarian dishes this summer.
Aperitifs, Palate Cleansers and Digestifs
Summer beers and wines aren't made just for throwing back with burgers, although that's a quality of all good summer beers. Beer and wine can play multiple roles, including aperitif, palate cleanser and digestif.
Kölsch-style beers like Ballast Point Ale by Ballast Point Brewing Company, and cream ales such as Session Cream Summer Ale by Full Sail Brewing Company, engage the palate and get it ready for the first course.
Try sparkling wines like Domaine Fouet Cremant de Loire Brut Rose and Argyle Blanc de Blanc 2011 by Knudsen Vineyard as palate cleaners between starters and entrees.
Rich stouts like Pecan Pie Porter from Clown Shoes and Big Lushious from Founders can top off a summer meal just as well as any confection.