Burger and Brew

As the days grow longer and the temperatures warmer, we’re more likely to fire up the backyard grill. And when we do, burgers and beer are often on the menu.

While most of us think of lighter beers in the summertime, such as blonde, pale and cream ales, pale wheat ales, pilsners and fruit beers, your red-meat burgers may overpower those lightweight brews. It’s time to revisit barbecue fare, from burgers to brews.

Even those who love the taste of a grilled hamburger can get bored with the same-old burger-on-bun routine. One way to spice things up is by adding a little cheese either before or after grilling.

An old-fashioned barbecue calls for an ice-cold beer (or, for beer aficionados, a room-temperature beer). The trick is to pair the right beer with the right burger. Yes, there’s more to it than flipping a patty on the grill and flipping off the top of your favorite brewski.

Your burger isn’t the only thing with a roasted or smoky taste. Beers that pair well with burgers have similar flavor profiles. Depending on your preference, you might choose a more malty beer, with less-intense roasted overtones. Examples include brown and imperial porters, English oatmeal or Belgian stouts, or American, English or imperial brown ales.

If you prefer a bolder roasted beer, you might opt for those of the dark and dry variety. These include the robust porter, Irish dry stout, American black ale or the black IPA.

Then there are the smoky beers. Styles include Rauchbier, Steinbrau, smoked beer and smoked porter.

Here are a few ideas on how to take a burger from bland to grand, and how to choose the perfect beer to accompany it:

• Stuff burgers with mozzarella for a mouthwatering surprise. Pair with a dark lager.

• Top your burger with crisp bacon and onions, but don’t stop there. Add some Gorgonzola cheese to give your burger an extra bite. Serve with a full-flavored amber ale.

• Try a Tuscan-style burger, accented with pecorino and provolone cheeses. Choose a light lager to complement the cheeses.

• Caramelized onions and asiago cheese will transform any burger from ordinary to extraordinary. A wheat beer or pale ale works well with the asiago.

• Forego the boring bun and sandwich your burger between slices of toasted garlic Parmesan French bread. Then chase it with a crisp lager or wheat beer.

If you’re not a red meat eater, opt for a chicken or turkey burger. Pescatarians can enjoy a grilled salmon burger. Not a carnivore? Veggie burgers come in delicious varieties ranging from black bean to quinoa. These lighter burgers call for lighter beers.

It all boils down to personal preference. It’s comparable to pairing wine and meat. Tradition calls for red wine with red meat, white wine with chicken or fish. However, it’s your choice. If you like hoppy beers, then pour yourself an IPA. Like a lighter beer? Go for a summer ale. But don’t be afraid to experiment with different burger recipes and the latest, greatest craft beers. You just might find a few new favorites.

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