Take Our ’Cue

Tips for the best beer and wine to serve with a steaming plate of mouth-watering BBQ.

You might think that the best beverage to pair with barbecue is anything that’s ice-cold and within arm’s reach. And while that strategy is usually a good one, you could be missing out on the chance to take the experience to the next level by going with a more, let’s say complementary beverage pairing. We asked Lisa Hamaker, co-owner of Virginia Beach-based Taste Virginia tours, to share some tips for how to select beer and wine that will enhance the flavor of your favorite plate of Virginia barbecue. 

Winning Wine

“Since barbecue is traditionally cooked so long that the meat falls off the bone, you don’t need a super tannic wine to hold its own with a side of beef ribs,” explains Hamaker. A fruity Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc can pair well instead.

Our Picks: Gabriele Rausse Winery’s Cabernet Franc or Whitebarrel Winery’s Chambourcin. 

“For chicken or vegetables, a fruity and acidic white, maybe with some sweetness from residual sugars, would go well,” says Hamaker. Keep in mind that oak-forward wines may overpower the smoky notes of the meat.

Our Picks: Williamsburg Winery’s Viognier or Philip Carter Winery’s Vidal Blanc.

Best Brews

For vinegar-based Virginia styles of barbecue, opt for lightly sweet, malty brews because they provide a sense of balance without overpowering the taste of the food. “The roasted malts will match the smoky flavor in the meat as well as provide a bit of sweetness to balance out any spiciness in the sauce—or match the sweetness, depending on which style you might be enjoying,” advises Hamaker.

Our Picks: Legend Brewing’s Brown Ale and Devil’s Backbone’s Black Lager.

Lighter barbecue like chicken goes best with light beer, and heavier barbecue like beef ribs pairs with heavier beer. “Pork lies in between these and, depending on the preparation, could go either way,” says Hamaker.

Our Picks: For chicken barbecue, reach for Blue Mountain’s Kölsch. For beef ribs, try Triple Crossing’s full-bodied porter or Lickinghole Creek’s stout. 


This article originally appeared in our Smoke & Salt 2018 issue.

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