Beer Pairing 101: Game Day Food and the Perfect Brews

Football season is back in full swing, and with it comes the Sunday tradition of overindulgence in all our favorite game-day staples: hot wings, pizza, chili and beyond, all washed down, of course, with plenty of ice-cold beer.

Sure, watery American lagers get the job done, but why not elevate your game-day grub with these beer pairings?

Wings

Wings and beer are a combination made in heaven. When selecting a beverage to pair with wings, there are a few things to remember. Hoppy beers, like pale ales, IPAs, porters and stouts accentuate spicy flavors.

Malty beers like brown ales, bocks and dark lagers, will reduce heat. Bitter beers with more lops and pale malt (think golden ales, bitters and IPAs) serve as effective palate cleansers.

Pizza

Second only to beer and wings (and that’s up for debate), the classic duo is pizza and beer. Toppings will play a big part in your pairing here. Pepperoni goes great with a spicy, hoppy black IPA, or a classic, light lagers and pilsners.

Classic cheese works well with a nuttier beer, like an ESB or nut brown ale. Vegetarians will love an IPA with their pies; their carnivorous cousins, the meat-lovers lovers, can count on an American pale ale or IPA.

Barbecue Ribs

Backyard barbecues are always better with beer. Pair a plate of moist, tender BBQ ribs with a porter with notes of coffee and chocolate, or with a refreshing, hoppy pale ale or IPA, which pack enough flavor and aroma to balance against barbecue.

Saisons pair well with most meals, but are also exceptionally well-suited for barbecue, cleansing the palate.

Chili

Nothing warms during the winter football months better than a bowl of spicy, meaty chili. Many chili recipes, in fact, call for beer; as a rule, pair your chili with the beer with which you made it. Beef chili goes well with intense, hoppy IPAs, and well as a complex German witbier (think Blue Moon).

Vegetarian chili tends to be on the sweeter side, so stick with a sharper, bitterer beer like an English bitter, golden ale or black IPA. For turkey chili, look to a pilsner or lager for the perfect pair. Heat is also a factor, and the hotter the chili, the tastes of a more subtle beer will all but vanish, though pilsners and lagers do the trick quite well.

Bratwurst

It’s no surprise a chargrilled bratwurst is ideally paired with a German brew, especially a bolder lager or pilsner. The rich, fatty taste of bratwurst also matches well with a hefeweizen.

Chips and Dip

Chips and beer go hand-in-hand, but when it comes dip, you’ve got a lot of options. Pilsners and American lagers go well with a 7-layer bean dip, as do golden-blond Mexican lagers.

A cool, creamy ranch dip will go down nicely with a yeasty wheat beer like hefeweizen. Match a classic ale or blond ale with spinach and artichoke dip. Tortilla chips and spicy queso go great with the nuttier brown ales.