Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Everyone can be a cicerone at BYOB restaurants.

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Everyone can be a cicerone at BYOB restaurants.

Perfect pairings, from barbecue to Korean to Middle Eastern.

By Heather Shouse

Witbier (contemporary American, Indian/Pakistani) Belgian-style wheat beers like Hoegaarden and Allagash White have a soft creaminess and low alcohol content, which cools down the heat in spicy foods. Plus they’re incredibly versatile and pack nice carbonation to take you from the start of the meal through richer main events in contemporary American cuisine.

Hefeweizen (Korean) A German classic, the creamy yeastiness of this wheat beer rounds out the slight heat and acidity in Korean pickles and marinated meats. Schneider Weisse and Hacker-Pschorr are top-notch imports, while Two Brothers’ Ebel’s Weiss is textbook.

American wheat (barbecue, Middle Eastern) Typically crisper, hoppier and more citrusy than their Belgian and German cousins, American wheat beers are ideal for cutting through the spice and fat of barbecue, but also lend a nice lemony note to the herb salads and legume-based dishes of the Middle East.

Pilsner (barbecue, Chinese, Indian/Pakistani) For something light and crisp enough to keep the fire down on Indian or Szechuan classics, but with enough character that you won’t confuse it with water, go for German pilsners. Spaten is a classic, while Pinkus makes an interesting organic version.

Rice ale (Japanese, vegetarian) An uncommon style to find stateside, rice ales like Kiuchi’s popular Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale (available at Trader Joe’s and other stores) have a light, brown-rice toastiness with a touch of sweetness, but are still clean and crisp so they won’t overpower fish or delicate vegetables.

Vienna lager (Japanese, Mexican) Nineteenth-century immigration moved this Austrian native to Mexico, where it’s brewed as Dos Equis Amber and Negra Modelo. For stateside examples of balanced toasted malts, low bitterness and nice crispness that echo flavors found in roasted chiles and rice dishes, try Great Lakes’ Eliot Ness or Metropolitan’s Dynamo.

Porter (Mexican) Dark-beer fans looking to bring a little bitter chocolate and spiced coffee to the table (a like-with-like pairing for Mexican food especially) should try porters, a grandfather style to stout that’s not as filling or creamy. Anchor brews a popular, widely available American take, while Fuller’s brings the style back to its U.K. roots.

Bock (Italian, Korean) Bocks are big but balanced lagers, with fairly high alcohol content, strong maltiness and a good dose of hop bitterness. That combo of robustness and good crispness found in bocks such as Einbecker Ur-Bock Dunkel or Spaten Optimator makes them ideal for rich meats, especially combined with sweet and spicy flavors (Korean barbecue, sausage pizza).

Blond ale (Middle Eastern, vegetarian) As the name suggests, these are light and airy beers, easy to drink and even easier to pair with food that carries the same flavors: vegetal with a bit of grain. Vegetarians should make friends with American blonds like New Belgium’s Skinny Dip and Bell’s Third Coast.

Pale ale (Thai/Vietnamese) IPAs’ bitterness doesn’t make them food-friendly, but American pale ales like Three Floyds’ Alpha King or Great Lakes Burning River dial it down a bit with enough floral hoppiness to cut through the sweetness in curries or tomato sauces but also just enough malt to balance the food’s acidity.

Altbier (Italian) From Düsseldorf, Germany, this “old beer” is a super-smooth brown ale with great balance, nice fruitiness and tons of versatility. Standouts like Grolsch Amber and Alaskan Amber are malty and spicy enough to give sausage a run for its money.

Kölsch (Chinese) Swap out those popular, watery, big brands for this German-style beer—it’s just as easy to gulp down but much more flavorful, and it’s versatile enough to pair with anything you might encounter on a lengthy and varied Chinese menu. Light and refreshing examples include Reissdorf, Goose Island’s Summertime and Metropolitan’s Krankshaft.


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