City Tap House beer director Andy Farrell isn’t a snob when it comes brews.
“The way I feel about summertime beer is that it’s hot outside, so drink what makes you happy and cools you down,” he says. “Ice-cold Miller High Life is a hell of a thing on a hot summer day.”
In addition to the “Champagne of beers,” we asked Farrell to recommend some of his favorite all-American suds for Fourth of July grill-outs. You can find most at Whole Foods or a liquor store with a better-than-average selection.
You want: A brew that goes well with barbecue.
Try: An American IPA, like Terrapin Beer Company RecreationAle (Athens, Georgia)
“You have all kinds of rich sauces, big flavors,” says Farrell. “I’m usually a fan of using your beer as a palate cleanser in this case.” Hoppy IPAs also pair well with tangy sides such as slaw and potato salad, and are typically lower in alcohol, so you can drink a few over the course of a ’cue.
You want: An easy-drinking beer with seafood.
Try: Port City Brewing Company Optimal Wit (Alexandria, Virginia)
“This is a great wheat if you’re not into hoppy beers, and you want something easy, clean, and bright,” says Farrell. He recommends the citrusy brew with seafood dishes, such as crabcakes and lobster. Want a little more hop? Try Port City’s Downright Pils. “Pils are hoppy on the front with a crisp, clean finish,” says Farrell. “They’re made for eating, the ultimate palate cleanser.”
You want: A robust, unusual brew.
Try: A German-style rauchbier, like Mad Fox Rauchbier (Falls Church, Virginia)
“If you really want to get crazy outside the box for your barbecue, try a German-style smoked lager,” says Farrell. “It’s like drinking bacon-beer.” If you can’t find the local version—it’s a seasonal item on Mad Fox’s list—make an exception to the American rule and try German Aecht Schlenkerla. The brewery specializes in smoked lagers, which Farrell says pair best with fatty, rich dishes like smoked pork butt and ribs.
You want: A crisp, fruity sip.
Try: A European-style radler, like Sixpoint Brewery Rad (Brooklyn, New York)
This style of beer, which literally means “cyclist” in German, originated in Europe as a biker’s drink: golden ale mixed with fresh fruit juice for a refreshing, low-alcohol thirst quencher. “They’re really bright, citrusy, and fresh,” says Farrell. If you’re not sticking within US borders, he also likes Stiegl Grapefruit Radler from Austria.
You want: A classy keg.
Try: Atlas Brew Works Rowdy Rye (Washington, DC)
Kegs don’t necessarily mean sticking to collegiate quantities of Bud. “If you’re going to invest in a keg, go local. That way you can ensure freshness,” says Farrell, who recommends calling nearby breweries or wholesalers (you can browse producers in our local beer guide). Even if you don’t know what exact beer you want, brewers can be helpful in recommending a variety that meets your style. Fitting for the Fourth, Farrell likes Atlas’s Rowdy Rye. “It’s an awesome food beer in general, and really complements barbecue. It has a nice spice, but it’s not bitter.”