8 of the best craft beer and food pairings for summer

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderCheers to summer.
  • Craft beer can elevate your taste buds to a new level when paired with the right foods.
  • According to a Nielsen CGA survey, 80% of craft beer drinkers typically drink craft beer on food-led occasions.
  • Craft beer expert Julia Herz shared her best food pairings for more than a week’s worth of craft beers, from BBQ short ribs to mint watermelon salad.

Summer is officially here, and with it, craft beer season.

While a perfectly handcrafted beer is palatable on its own (in any weather), pair it with the right bite and your taste buds will be elevated to a whole new level.

Food can make, break, and even drive the experience of a craft beer. In fact, 80% of craft beer drinkers typically drink craft beer on food-led occasions, Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, told Business Insider, citing a 2017 Nielsen CGA survey.

But there’s an art to master behind craft beer and food pairings. Luckily, Herz offered her best pairing recommendations with enough craft beers to last you more than a week.

From expected pairings, like BBQ beef short ribs with malt-forward beers, to unexpected complementary flavours, such as mint watermelon salad with a lemondrop pale ale, take her tips to the tap and craft your ultimate beer experience.


Seventh Sons is a strong ale that matches the intensity of grilled peaches with a dense, creamy dessert-like summer sweet corn custard. “Jammy malt character (as described by the brewery) should provide contrast to the seasonal custard and intertwine with the fruit,” Herz said.

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Pair The Cold One with grilled littleneck clams with garlic, butter, and Sriracha. Herz calls contrasting cold beers with warm, buttery clams “the stuff of summer legends.”

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A malt-forward beer like Ponysaurus Scottish Ale shares complementary flavours with the caramelised sweetness of BBQ beef short ribs. Herz recommends adding red cabbage and carrot summer slaw for a shot of acidity to brighten up the pairing.

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Alum Rock New England Double IPA pairs well with herb-crusted bone-in pork chop and pineapple salsa. “Tropical hoppy flavours play well with a summer twist on pork chops and applesauce, while the IPA’s base malt is complement to juicy, white meat,” Herz said.

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Complement a bready malt like Paradise Park with lightly fried fish, like chilli-lime fish tacos and a side of mango jicama slaw. The chilli lime adds a refreshing and lively dash of acidity, Herz said.

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Pace Car Racer pairs well with stuffed ground chuck cheeseburger with roasted garlic, spinach, and artichoke. “Toasted malt works with the grilled meats, while the hops help to highlight the greens,” Herz said.

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Fremont Mountain Daisy complements a boneless buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. “Hop bitterness, alcohol, and carbonation help cut and refresh the palate of the crispy breading while complementing the tender protein,” Herz said. “Citrus hop flavour works will accentuate the flavorful, seasoned chicken.”

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Zip Line Brewing Lemondrop Pale Ale pairs well with a mint watermelon salad, which features an interplay of fruit and herbs for a fun and refreshing summer snack.

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