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Choose The Right Beer For Your Fourth Of July Cookout


With the recent rise of craft beer in the U.S., Americans now have more beer choices than ever before.

Peanut butter and jelly. Fireworks and the Fourth of July. A juicy burger and a crisp German lager. Some things just go together.

With the recent rise of craft beer in the U.S., Americans now have more choices than ever before. While it’s tempting to serve your favorite adult beverage with every dish, pairing the right beer style with your dish of choice can elevate your Independence Day meal.

Ann Sandbrook, food chemistry lab manager in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology has a few tips to help you choose the right beer to take each course of your Fourth of July cookout to the next level.

“People know that pairing the right wine with the right food is important, but not as many people know that the same is true for beer,” she said. “For example, the roasted malts in an amber ale that give the brew its characteristic color also provide caramel notes that go great with the smoky richness of barbecue chicken.”

For the traditional staple of summer cookouts — burgers and hot dogs — Sandbrook recommended something light and crisp, like a helles.

“Virginia Tech’s Fightin’ Hokies Lager is actually a really great option,” she said. “It’s a German-style helles, and the light bitterness from the noble hops will cut the fattiness of red meat, making for a great summer pairing. Plus, a part of the proceeds from Fightin’ Hokies Lager sales come back to our department to support food science scholarships.”

For dessert, Sandbrook said to pick a beer that’s darker and sweeter, such as a stout or porter.

“A dark malt-forward beer such as a stout really complements ice cream especially,” she said. “The longer roast of malt is what gives stouts those chocolatey or coffee flavors that work so well with various dessert foods.”

According to Sandbrook, higher alcohol content and bitterness aren’t the best options in hot weather, so keep your ABV and IBUs down when the heat is up if you’re looking for a drinkable brew that you can sip while hanging out with the family.

“Hops add bitterness to a beer, and an extremely bitter beer is drying and not as refreshing when it’s hot out,” she said. “Alcohol is dehydrating and gives that hot sensation in high concentrations, which magnifies any bitterness in the brew. A lower alcohol beer light in bitterness makes for a more refreshing drink. This would include styles such as session beers that are lower in alcohol content and bitterness compared to typical IPAs or American pale ales that are balanced between the malt and hops profiles.”

Don’t forget that beer can also be an ingredient in your cooking, Sandbrook said. The same concepts for pairing the beverage and food can be applied to cooking with beer.

“If you don’t want to grill out, you can try beer-braised bratwurst or hotdogs with a hefeweizen or kolsch,” she said. “Adding beer in the pan while the meat cooks and allowing it to reduce down adds in a lot of beer flavor to the dogs. A brown ale also makes a great marinade addition, as the alcohol and acid in the beer aids in tenderizing meats while adding some flavor.” — Newswise

Ann Sandbrook is food chemistry lab manager in the Virginia Tech Department of Food Science and Technology. She has over a decade of experience performing analysis on alcoholic and fermented beverages and is a member of the Blue Ridge Virginia chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes the education of women in the fermentation industries. She is a Certified Beer Server with the Cicerone Level 1 program, and is an avid home brewer. 

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