While many enjoy wine with barbecue, beer is always going to be my pairing of choice for chargrilled meats – especially if they’re nicely spiced and marinated.
This likely stems from the time I spent in my early 20s living in South Korea. Barbecue is a very popular way of eating there, with do-it-yourself setups at each restaurant table: a charcoal or gas grill in the centre, raw, marinated pork or beef brought over and loads of spicy condiments and side dishes. Beer is the obvious pairing there, and you order big bottles of the stuff; divvying it into each of your dining companion’s small glasses before finally helping yourself.
I still remember the feeling of the first sip of cold beer after taking a big bite of barbecued meat, doused in spicy ssamjang sauce and wrapped in a fresh lettuce leaf. It was so satisfying – and I’m not sure any wine could provide a comparable experience. Sometimes, beer is just best suited to what you’re eating.
Ireland is the land of beer – and our foods pair equally well with our craft brews. If you’re not familiar with Irish craft breweries, a quick peek into your local independent off licence can work as a good introduction. This summer, we’ve already enjoyed some stunningly sunny days (long may they last) and I have been lucky to enjoy a few local pints on my patio at the farm.
Simon Broderick also enjoys a good pint during a barbecue. He is a beer professional based in Co Westmeath and working as a representative for Fourcorners Craft Beer, which imports and distributes specialty craft beers, ciders and sodas. Simon also blogs regularly about beer on his website, simonsaysbeer.com. He tells Irish Country Living that he enjoys helping restaurants pair beers to their menu items.
“One of my more memorable [pairing jobs] was in Kin Khao in Athlone, where we paired Thai street food with Irish craft beers and ciders,” he recalls. “It’s always a real treat when you find a perfect match to elevate the flavours of your meal.”
With this in mind, I ask Simon which two Irish beers he would recommend for some gently spiced, grilled chicken and lamb. He didn’t hesitate with his responses.
Lineman Undertone Dark Lager
Lineman is a microbrewery in Dublin, founded by brewer Mark Lucey in 2019. Their Undertone Dark Lager is cold-conditioned and fermented for a longer period than the average beer which brings out its malty, sweet caramel notes. Overall, it’s a really smooth-tasting beer – perfect for a warm summer evening.
“It’s very drinkable,” Simon says. “You just get a light sweetness and toastiness – it would work very well with barbecue roast meats. The thing with beer is you either want it to complement or contast your flavour – the caramel malt will go nicely with the char of the meats.”
You can find this dark lager in select independent off licences.
Black Donkey Sheep Stealer Saison/Irish Farmhouse Ale
What better kind of beer to drink on your farm on a warm summer’s evening than this Irish Farmhouse Ale. “Saison” style beer originated in Belgium and, as a brew, it can be largely open to the brewer’s interpretation. However, you will generally find their flavour to be on the spicy or fruity side of things. Black Donkey – a brewery located in Ballinlough, Co Roscommon – has been brewing since 2014. Its Sheep Stealer Saison achieves good balance: sweet, tart, a bitter in perfect balance. This makes it pretty versatile when it comes to food pairings, but grilled lamb is up there as one of its best combinations.
“Sheep stealer goes really well with lamb – it has such a nice, bright bitterness to it, it really cuts through the fattiness of the meat. It cleanses your palate after every drink,” Simon says.
You can find Sheep Stealer in select off licences and shops throughout Ireland.