by Evan S. Benn
No matter where you are in America now, it's summer. You're going to go to the beach, or a friend's backyard grill, and you're going to want something to eat - and drink. And whether you're packing for two or the whole party, your best bet is to keep the food simple. Better still: Find a beer to pair with whatever you're making, or what your host is planning to serve. Need some help? Here are ten go-to recipes for the outdoors, and the ten beers (okay, one's a cider) that will make those dishes even better.
A perfect summer cheeseburger
Summer. Beaches. Burgers. Obviously. Make them to your liking - you know how to do it. Just, please, use fresh ground beef, not sad frozen patties. I like mine simple: medium-rare, topped with crisp romaine lettuce and a fat slice of beefsteak tomato.
The beer: Sprecher Black Bavarian, a black lager with a slightly smoky finish that matches well with grilled foods like burgers.
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I try to avoid mayo when I'm outside (though I make an exception for lobster rolls; see next slide). Instead, I top my BLT sandwiches with slices of ripe avocado, which provide enough creamy richness that you won't miss the Hellmann's.
The beer: Boulevard Zon, a Belgian-style witbier with a light citrus twist that cuts through the salty, fatty B, while bringing out the fresh flavors of the L and the T.
Lobster rolls - perfect with an icy beer and some chips
3. Lobster Roll
Who needs tiny forks when you have a hotdog bun? Keep it simple and traditional by tucking sweet, succulent lobster meat into a toasted bun with a light brushing of mayo. Or fancy it up by first mixing the lobster flesh with some diced celery, a hearty squeeze of lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne pepper.
The beer: Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, a beautifully hazy wheat ale that's packed with lemon-zest flavors.
Low and slow is what rib cookery is all about. Few do it better than "Barbecue University" dean Steven Raichlen, whose Memphis Dry Rub Ribs are a thing of beauty.
The beer: Left Hand Smokejumper, a big imperial porter from Colorado that's brewed with smoked malts for a heady aroma and flavor so smoky, you might cough. See the Eat Like a Man Grilling Awards for more of my favorite smoked beers.
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It's hard to screw up grilled corn on the cob, and it's easy to send it into the flavor stratosphere. Once they're off the heat, slather the ears with butter, then hit 'em with a shot of fresh lime juice and a generous dusting of chile powder.
The beer: Surly Hell, an unfiltered German-style lager with a light body and clean flavor that will elevate, not get in the way of, your corn.
Finely dice two tilapia fillets and squeeze the juice of one lime over the fish, then cover and chill in a fridge for about 20 minutes. When the fish is white and opaque, stir in half a finely diced red onion and a diced cucumber. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro leaves and sesame seeds. Serve chilled.
The beer: Schlafly Pilsner, a light, clear, dry lager that lends itself well to seafood pairings, thanks to its hint of lemony, grassy hops.
7. "Greek" Chicken Salad
Substitute tangy Greek yogurt for mayo in your chicken-salad recipe of choice. Mine includes golden raisins, diced celery, and a big dash of curry powder.
The beer: Sierra Nevada Summerfest, a clean, thirst-quenching pilsner that keeps this dish light and zippy. Its peppery Saaz hops serve as an extra seasoning for the chicken salad.
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Thinly slice a head of green cabbage, then pour in vinegar and sugar until the flavor pleases your palate. Pro tip: Use apple cider vinegar for extra bite. If there happens to be pulled pork at your party, do yourself a favor and top it with this slaw.
The beer: Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider, a sweet-tart one-two punch with a fresh ginger zing. Angry Orchard is the Boston Beer Co.'s (Sam Adams) new cider line and also includes Traditional Dry and Crisp Apple varieties.
A refreshing watermelon, feta, and mint salad
9. Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
Toss cubes of juicy watermelon with salty feta and fresh mint for an easy beach salad. And if you think salt with melon sounds odd (or just really girly), you probably haven't spent much time in the South, where they put salt on all kinds of fruit.
The beer: Twisted Pine Hoppy Boy IPA, a Colorado-brewed India pale ale with a distinct minty note of its own.
Rhubarb's bitter, red stalks are delicious when mixed with the right proportion of strawberries and sugar, then baked in a buttery pie shell. My tried-and-true favorite recipe comes from food blog Smitten Kitchen (again, don't let the girly-ness fool you).
The beer: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, a malty-hoppy cross between Scotch ale, India pale ale, and American brown ale. It's brewed with organic brown sugar, which translates to a flavor of molasses that complements pie crust and mellows out the rhubarb's acidity.
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