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The best grilled food and beer pairings this summer

Get the most out of your summer grilling. Pair these foods with Michigan beers for the ultimate combo.

Michelle Martin
for Busch’s Fresh Food Market
There’s nothing better than enjoying your favorite grilled entree with an ice-cold beer that complements it. When it comes to burgers and beer, try a pairing based on the burger’s toppings.

During the hot summer months, there’s nothing that tastes better with grilled food than cold beer. But with so many styles and types of beer to choose from, how do you decide which beers go best with different foods?

It’s really quite easy, said Troy Hemstreet, a beverage consultant for Busch’s Fresh Food Market.

“Pairing beer with food is very much the same as pairing wine with food,” he said. “Your main focus is matching body to body and flavor to flavor. For example, a rich entree should be paired with a rich beer, and for flavor, the food and the beer should have similar acidity and sweetness levels.”

With so many different ingredients that can go into making beer — hops, barley and yeast, of course, but also fruits, spices and vegetables — there are countless options for pairings.

Try these savory pairings to fulfill your summertime cravings.


While some people naturally gravitate toward red wine when enjoying a steak, there are several great types of beer that pair just as well — or even better. “You should ask yourself what type of steak you’re preparing and what’s accompanying the steak, such as sauces and sides,” Hemstreet said. “All of those things can play a factor in making a choice for which beer to pair it with.” Stouts and porters go well with fattier steaks such as ribeyes, while brown ale better pairs with a leaner variety such as filet mignon. The smooth, full-bodied Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout is perfectly suited to hold its own against a rich, meaty steak. Likewise, Grand Rapids-based Founders Porter, with chocolate and caramel malt presence, also pairs well with ribeyes and T-bones. Planning to grill a leaner steak such as filet mignon or sirloin? Try Brooklyn Brown Ale from New York. It is full-flavored with a complex malt flavor.

Stouts and porters go well with fattier steaks such as ribeyes, while brown ale better pairs with a leaner variety such as filet mignon.


Burgers and beer are always a summertime favorite, and a grilled burger paired with a distinctive craft beer makes the combination even better. Hemstreet recommends choosing a pairing based on the burger’s toppings. For traditional burgers topped with lettuce, tomatoes and onions, try an IPA (short for India Pale Ale). These hoppy beers bring out the vegetable’s flavors. Bellaire-based Short’s Huma Lupa Licious or Williamston-based Old Nation Brewery’s M-43 are two worth trying. But if your burger is topped with heavier condiments — mushrooms and swiss, for instance — try a bourbon barrel-aged stout such as Dragon’s Milk from Holland-based New Holland Brewing. Dragon’s Milk, a heavier beer, pairs well with the meaty texture of the mushrooms.


Another grilling staple — chicken — has a light flavor and texture, so the beer should be light as well. Wheat beers — Bell’s Oberon, Blue Moon and Dogfish Head Namaste, to name a few — have a light, effervescent character, which makes them a great companion for grilled chicken. They also often have undertones of other flavors such as orange peel and coriander. “These wheat beers have a citrus that really goes well with chicken,” Hemstreet said. Amber beers are another good pairing for grilled chicken. They’re usually light- to medium-bodied and light copper to light brown in color. North Peak Bolt, from North Peak Brewing Co. in Traverse City, is a great way one to try with grilled chicken dishes.

Wheat and amber beers both make great companions for grilled chicken.


Grilled seafood pairs perfectly with a light, crisp beer such as a pilsner. Generally medium-bodied and highly carbonated, pilsners are light and refreshing. But, just as you would do with steak, selecting a beer should depend on the type of fish you’re grilling. “The lighter, more delicate fish should have a lighter, more delicate beer,” Hemstreet said. “The heavier, more steak-like fish, such as salmon or swordfish, will pair best with a more full-bodied beer.” For lighter fish varieties such as whitefish, Hemstreet likes to pair a light beer such as Locals Light by Short’s Brewing Co. For a bit heavier fish, a pilsner such as Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest and Sam Adams Noble Pils pairs well. Another great option for seafood is a sour beer. It goes best when accompanied by a similarly sour food — try it, for instance, with a sweet and sour sauce or lemon marinade on grilled shrimp. Two delicious sours to try include Birmingham-based Griffin Claw Brewing Co.’s Sour Trooper and New Holland Blue Sunday Sour. Both are available at Busch’s Fresh Food Market.

Find a location near you at Busch’s Fresh Food Market and talk with a local expert about our favorite pairings.

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