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Expert Tips: Beer and Wine for Your 4th of July Cookout

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[Photo: Joshua Bousel]

A casual cookout isn't the time for fancy, expensive drinks, but we love to find out what the experts are sipping, whether it's American-brewed ales or locally made wine. We asked a few brewmasters and restaurant wine directors to share their tips for the ultimate July 4th party: the best beer and wine for burgers, hot dogs, and more.

Cam O'Connor, Deschutes Brewery

Say we're grilling for the 4th of July. What should our beer plan be?
Ideally, you'll have a variety of beers to pair with the food that you're grilling. I think beers that pair well with grilled food are porters (such as our Black Butte, which is great with barbecued meats), pale ales (good with a variety of foods; burgers are a good choice), India pale ales (great with spicy food), and White IPAs (great with grilled chicken, pork, spicy seafood). I would probably have a nice summer ale or Bavarian Hefeweizen around as well. The thing I like about this beer plan is you have a wide range of styles and flavors to offer to guests.

Which American craft beers have you been enjoying lately?
Other than Deschutes? Some products I have been trying lately include beers from Firestone Walker Brewing, Boulevard Brewing, and Double Mountain Brewing. All three of those breweries have some nice beers that are great for summer barbecues.

Steven Grubbs, Wine Director, Five and Ten / Empire State South, Georgia

How do you pick drinks for a barbecue?
I generally hate the BBQ question. Mostly because it always sorta stumps me. Beer is my usual choice, the colder/shittier the better.

The quandary as far as wine goes is that you need spice and structure to deal with grill marks and spicy assertive sauces but you don't want anything overly serious or heavy. One must be able to drink it from a Solo cup.

If pressed I'm going Sardinian red here. Argiolas 'Costera' Cannonau. It's roasty-beachy. Or if you can get ahold of a Txakolina rosé, that might be a good option, too. Ameztoi makes one called 'Rubentis' that rules. Rosé in general might not be a bad move but it's kind of an overplayed hand these days.

What domestic wines are you loving these days?
I'm still basking in awe of some aged Cristom wines I drank last year. Totally profound and not trying at all to be something they're not. Qupe always satisfies at totally reasonable price points. The 09 Central Coast Syrah is one of the best deals around. Montinore Estate is also killing it in the northern Willamette. Rob Sinskey's Carneros white wines are pretty exciting. His whites might be some of our fine nation's best.

Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

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A few more American-brewed kolsch options [Photograph: Nick Leiby]

If you're planning the ultimate Independence Day barbecue, what's your beer plan?

I think that you need to look at it from two angles—and have two different beers...It is going to be hot and humid in NY, so you want a nice refreshing beer that is light, but not sweet, so a Kolsch would be the perfect beer to beat the heat before you eat.

But then it is time to sit down and eat some serious BBQ, and you need something with a little more punch to work with the rich flavors of grilled meat...a Pale Ale or Imperial IPA would work great for that. Full bodied and hoppy—the perfect match for fatty meats!

Matthew Brynildson, Firestone Walker

What's your advice for beer for the 4th of July?
Make sure to have coolers and plenty of ice if you are going the bottle route.

Also: Keep your beer bottles protected and out of the sun! My 4th of July line up would cover the span from light and refreshing to hoppy and assertive. 805 Blonde Ale is our latest release for the Central Coast. It is light and refreshing with enough malt backbone to pair up with summery lighter fare...summer salads, wood fired pizza and the like.

Our Solace is the wheat beer I would offer, perfect with fish tacos and grilled seafood and also a super beach friendly fill-the-cooler beer. I would then move into BBQ friendly beers like DBA and Union Jack. DBA has a great malty middle and oak finish that works great with red meat, Brats and other 4th of July fare. Union Jack pairs up well with spicier stuff: beer can chicken, spicier sausages, and smoky BBQ.

Besides Firestone Walker, which American craft breweries are you into lately?
I love Trumer Pils—great for all occasions and all crowds. It is refined and refreshing. Allagash White is a wonderful blend of wheat, yeast and spice. Refreshing and food friendly. Blind Pig IPA from Russian River is an amazing example of new world American IPA—I can't get enough of it. Pretty much anything Vinnie makes, I drink.

Brennon Leighton, Efeste Wines

Say you're throwing a July 4 barbecue. What sorts of wine do you like with grilled food?
I know that the go-to is Rosé but I've got to tell you I crave a different lot: Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Syrah and Mourvedre. I'm thinking of a crisp Sancerre with earth and herb that is Saint Joseph focused and pure. Plus Bandol because the spice would go with any barbecue.

We want to drink domestically for the 4th of July—what American wineries you've been enjoying lately?
I think that Washington wines are outstanding with barbecue and can stand up to the food and fun better than anything. Try the Sparkman Cellars Pearl or Caderetta SBS. They are phenomenal Sauvignon Blanc based wines.

Or Syrahs like the Liberté from Maison Bleue or the Chapel Block crafted by Owen Roe. But my favorite wines right now are wines made from Mourvedre such as the one from Syncline—and I think the one that I make is dreamy, if I say so myself.

I would be remiss not to say that a lot of winemakers love their beer and cocktails as well. Black Raven Brewery in Redmond, WA is crazy good. Try the Trickster IPA or the Beaktweaker Citrus IPA.

Jim Koch, Samuel Adams

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Say you want to throw the ultimate 4th of July barbecue—what styles of beer would you serve?
It's only natural to honor an American patriot on Independence Day, so I go with my favorite—Samuel Adams Boston Lager! The beer's upfront malt flavor matches the caramelized flavors of the grilled meat, and its hoppy finish prepares the palate for the next bite. We'll probably grill with my favorite marinade—a bottle of Boston Lager, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. It works great when you marinade the meat for at least four hours. For chicken or fish, swap Boston Lager for a Summer Ale.

We want to drink domestically on the 4th. What American breweries are you excited about right now?
The US is seeing a craft beer revolution with so many breweries declaring their independence from mass domestic beers. With almost 2,000 craft breweries in the US, the most since the 1880s, each craft brewery bottles their own passion into an IPA, a Belgian ale, or a porter—it's almost impossible to pick just one great American craft brewery.

Juliette Pope, Beverage Director at Gramercy Tavern, NYC

Tell us what wines to pour on July 4th, Juliette!
LAMBRUSCO!!! Mosel Riesling!!! Gamay!!! Rosés of all shapes and sizes!

How about domestic wines for this patriotic holiday?
Domestic, am loving Heitz (both rose and red versions of their Grignolino, from their 1940s vineyard planted with that obscure Piedmont grape, plus their classic Martha's Vineyard cab bottling, the 2004). And Paumanok, killer Chenin Blanc (only one bottled in state of NY incidentally). And McCall, whose stuff I like enough to have both red and rose versions of their merlot. And Bethel Heights in OR—whose Pinot Noir I've always loved and often had on the list at Gramercy Tavern—who has now debuted a delicious Gruner Veltliner, of all things, which we are excited about and have available by the glass.

Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam

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What sorts of beer do you like to serve at a big 4th of July party?
With temps surely in the 90s, I'm all about our Carolina Shandy: 2/3 El Toro cream ale and 1/3 lemonade. At 3% ABV, it's refreshing and hydrating...yet magically still contains a bit of booze. The hoppiest I'd get on the 4th is probably a crisp pale ale. Give me a pale ale, a cheeseburger, and a lawn chair. No seriously, I could use one now. Is it the Fourth yet?

We want to drink domestically for the 4th of July—which American
craft breweries have you been enjoying lately?

Our head brewer Chris continues to brag on Jolly Pumpkin. Chris loves him some Bam Biere. And I know he has a lot of admiration for Ron Jeffries, Jolly Pumpkin's founder. I continue to enjoy and appreciate the innovative beers that continually come from Stone, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn, and Sierra Nevada. I love New Belgium's Tart Lychee. Locally, Charlotte-based NoDa Brewing Company is cranking out some amazing hop-forward beers.

Dave Yarrington, Smuttynose Brewing Co.

What are your beer tips for the 4th of July? Any domestic breweries you're loving right now?
The beer plan for a BBQ is making sure I've got plenty of it! Which kind depends on what I'm grilling. I love our Old Brown Dog Ale with burgers and steaks. With chicken or fish I may go with our Star Island Single. Anything that has some spice to it goes great with the IPA.

There are lots amazing American breweries right now. Some of the local ones I'm enjoying are Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead Brewery, Maine Beer Co., Bull Jagger Brewing Co., and Throwback Brewery.

Chris Brockaway, Broc Cellars

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[Photograph: Rosé wine on Shutterstock]

How do you pick wines for the 4th of July?
Something for drinking on a hot day. Lots of good rosés out there right now that aren't too big and low-to-moderate in alcohol. Trying to beat the heat, not intensify it.

What domestic options would you recommend?
Some old vine California red wines to pair with grilling later in the day. Something that can stand up grilled meat but not oaky so you can pop it in the fridge for 30 mins to chill down the wine. Old vine Carignan or Valdiguié (formally known as Napa Gamay) are fun choices.

There are lots of American wineries I'm enjoying right now. Martian Vineyards makes a great Grenache Rosé, and a Grenache Red made by carbonic maceration. The vineyard is located in Los Alamos, north of Santa Barbara. Also enjoying some of the whites from Ambyth Vineyards outside of Paso Robles. They use some skin contact on their whites, mostly Rhone in origin.

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