The 5-Minute Guide to Pairing Beer and Meat

A great craft beer goes perfectly with plenty of meat dishes. Burgers, steaks, sausages, and seafood all get even better when paired with a delicious beer. Here are a few basics to help you find the perfect match.

Go for a beer that compliments the meat’s strong flavors. The protein is the centerpiece of the meal, so you don’t want to cut out it’s powerful place.

To start, it helps to think of beer styles in three categories: light, medium, and heavy.

Light Beers

  • Light doesn’t mean low in calories.
  • Light beers range from a pale yellow to light brown.
  • They’re crisp and refreshing and don’t have bold flavors.
  • Pilsner, wheat ale, Blonde ale, and lager are considered typical light beers. They range from 4% to 5% alcohol.

Medium Beers

  • Medium beers balance easy-drinking and bold flavors.
  • They range in color from light amber to darker browns and reds.
  • Usually hops or malts are the dominant flavor.
  • Pale ale, IPA, Oktoberfest, bock, lambic, and red ale are good choices for a medium beer.

Heavy Beers

  • Heavy beers have big bold flavors that are sometimes a whole dish themselves.
  • They’re usually dark brown to black.
  • Roasted, toasted, and dry flavors in heavy beers pair well with meats.
  • They can sometimes have high alcohol content, but some stouts can be down around 4.5% and be very drinkable.
  • Irish, chocolate, oyster, and oatmeal stouts are great choices. Winter seasonals that are sweet and spicy are good additions to the table as well.


1) Burgers
You’ll want a beer that clears the pallet after the complex bites of the burger. A light-bodied beer washes hearty burgers down and leaves your feeling refreshed. The sweet and malty flavors of a lager pair perfectly with burgers. The lighter body compliments the heavy doses of cheese and bread.


2) Steak
You probably invested some money in that hunk of meat. Don’t drink a beer that dominates the juicy flavor. Stick with a medium or light beer that won’t fill you up or lay on thick hops or malts. Go for a light lager, pale ale, or pilsner.


3) Sausages
A match made in heaven. A platter of different sausages and a big mug of malty German style beer are perfect. The grease and spice of a sausage needs a sweeter beer. An Oktoberfest, marzen, or full-bodied lager will pair great.

crab legs

4) Seafood
Fish, shrimp, and crab can have light delicate flavors. Choose a delicate beer that has body to make up for the lightness of the dish. Irish stouts, pale ales, and smoky porters go well with soups and chowders, light lagers cleanse well after crab, shrimp, and lobster.


5) Charcuterie
Cold cooked meats like Salami, cured hard sausage, chorizo, and prosciutto are perfect for beers. Because these meats are really made for light snacks and socializing, drink a beer that’s also fun and festive. A bold IPA or fruit flavored beer like a lambic or wheat beer would be a good addition.


6) Barbecue
Saucy ribs and chicken need only have a a light beer on hand to make it all better. Don’t battle those sweet and tangy sauces with a beer that needs to be tasted and appreciated. Light lagers and pale ales served nice and cold are the perfect compliment to sticky meats right off the smoker.

With the right beer, all meat dishes are even better. Try out different combinations to find what brings out the flavor best.


Photo credits:

Burger, Steak, and Sausages: Noeluap via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Crab Legs- JanneM via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Salami- avlxyz via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Header/ Ribs- Another Pint Please… via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA