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Choosing the Perfect Beer Pairing for Your Summer Picnic

Photo via HonestlyYum

Despite San Francisco’s well-earned reputation for cool and foggy summer weather, we also enjoy warm and clear days that are perfect for picnics. Beer is the ideal beverage choice for many picnic foods since the same cooking process that gives malt its caramel flavor also gives meats and vegetables theirs.Plus, you can now easily buy craft brew packaged in lightweight and quick-chilling aluminum cans for on-the-go convenienve, and, and to top it all off, most beer styles are lower in alcohol than wine, so you can replenish your precious bodily fluids on a warm day and still keep your Frisbee wits about you.

We’ve selected three classic picnic foods and paired them with craft beers to help you get your picnic planning started.

Fried Chicken 

Light bodied ales, pilsners, and lagers can complement the crunch and juiciness of fried chicken and the spicy hops of these styles help cut the grease without overpowering the flavor of the meat. Two beers that work well are the Gordon Biersch Märzen or, if you like sours, Almanac’s Sourdough Wild Ale.

Antipasto Plate

The particular ingredients of antipasto can influence the style of beer that pairs well. Here are some examples:

  • Cheeses – Although pairing cheese with beer is a category in itself, antipastos typically include provolone or mozzarella. Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is a tangy choice for both of these cheeses.
  • Sweet, pickled, and salty vegetables – Artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, and roasted red peppers also work well with Sierra’s Pale Ale.
  • Cured meats The pepper flavor in a RyePA, like Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye stands up to the pepper and fennel spiciness of salami. If you have more delicate air-dried meats, such as prosciutto, a Flanders' Red Ale such as The Bruery’s excellent Oude Tart has just enough acidity to cut through the fat and salt without overwhelming the flavor of the meat.

Vietnamese Sandwiches

With combinations of chili or fish sauce, grilled meat or fried seafood, and crisp vegetables, Vietnamese sandwiches are often exploding with flavor. To complement them, choose a beer style to match. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to invite your favorite IPA to a picnic, this may be your opportunity. Karl Strauss Brewing Company just launched a limited edition and wonderfully juicy Mosaic Session Ale that’s made to order.

For more suggestions about foods to pair with beer, check out BeerCloud for their Sommelier feature. (I know, it should be called Cicerone.) In addition to the web site they also have a free companion app for either iOS or Android.