Beers have flexibility to refresh palates

04 May, 2007

Say what you like about a refreshing rosé or a cool Chardonnay ( I'm sure they're really rather nice on a hot summer's day), but let's face it, beer is the more flexible friend when it comes to flame-licked food.

Hops give beer the bitterness to slice through rich flavours; its charred and caramelised malt character complements grilled meat; the carbonation can gently lift everything from the palate and prepare it for the next juicy bite, and beer can refresh the most rapacious of thirsts.

But when the coals are glowing and the sun is shining, don't just reach for something cheap, chilled and cheerful. Try to match what comes off the grill with a beer that either contrasts with or complements (but enhances) the food's flavour.

A Vienna-style lager, with its malt-driven sweetness and thirst-quenching quaffability, makes an ideal partner for juicy burgers and sizzling sausages.

Golden ales shine alongside shrimps and seafood, wheat beers work with all salads and fish, hoppy English bitters stand up to spare ribs and kebabs; chargrilled chicken calls for a crisp pilsner, while a sweet fruit beer is deliciously indulgent with melted marshmallows.

Best outdoor beers

Duvel, 8.5 per cent abv. Golden abbey beer - with stunning clove and ripe pear flavours - is a revelation with seared scallops or garlic-buttered prawns. Remember, though, it's strong.

Budweiser Budvar Czech Dark Lager, 4.7 per cent abv. Magnificently refreshing and crisp despite its sinister hue. Bequeath its mocha notes, roasted character and beautifully-balanced bitter finish to spare ribs, Jamaican jerk or, frankly, anything char-grilled.

Bitburger Pils, 4.8 per cent abv. Whether it's for rolling across your forehead while slaving over a flaming grill or for simply quenching a parched palate, every barbecue requires a first-rate pilsner. Bitburger successfully balances a fruity malt base with a grassy, herbal hit on the palate and a finish drier than a German's cheek after a World Cup penalty shoot-out.

Daleside Morocco Ale, 5.5 per cent abv. Dark, strong and delightfully spicy, this unusual Yorkshire ale is extremely drinkable and incredibly dynamic when matched with red meats. Try lamb kebabs with onions and peppers.

Goose Island IPA, 5.9 per cent abv. Wrap a Camembert in foil with some sun-dried tomatoes , plonk it on the barbecue and take it off after five minutes. Open it up and devour with the help of a fresh French baguette and this seriously hoppy and delightfully herbal India Pale Ale from Chicago.

Liefmans Kriek, 6 per cent abv. With the dryness of Champagne, this Belgian beauty makes a perfect aperitif. Alternatively, serve it at the end of the evening when it will prove itself a fine sweet cherry-flavoured cohort to melted marshmallows, chocolate and other decadent desserts.




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