When it comes to barbecue, there are only four names you need to know: Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas City and Texas. Like a good side of slaw or bowl of baked beans, barbecue needs a beer to bring out the heartiness of its flavor and cleanse the palate so each bite is a rediscovery of taste. –Jim Casey
Rolling on the River
Memphis barbecue is known for its pork ribs, encrusted with a dry rub and cooked for hours over charcoal and hickory chips. The result is a falling-off-the-bone delicacy that is re-seasoned with additional dry rub before serving to give it a crispy texture that is not overpowered by a wet sauce. Boscos Flaming Stone, a stone beer based on a wheat ale, provides a smoky dryness and nutty finish perfect for the most tender ribs. Pale in color, Flaming Stone was pioneered by Boscos Brewery in Memphis in 1993, and uses heated pink granite to elicit its refreshing sweetness.
North Carolina pork shoulder barbecue (also known as a Boston Butt) is traditionally served pulled or chopped on a bun—perfect for soaking up its vinegar sauce. The added sugar sweetness and the heat of red pepper flakes often give the oak-smoked pork an added kick. The brew to accompany North Carolina’s oaky barbecue is Weeping Radish Brewery’s Black Radish Beer straight from Jarvisburg, N.C. Black Radish is a medium-bodied, dark German lager with hoppy bitterness and delicate roastiness perfect for the give-and-take taste of Carolinian ’cue.
Kansas City was the meat-packing center of the country until the 1960s. It was in these meat stockyards that pit masters got a hold of beef briskets. Slow-cooked over open pits, K.C. barbecue is famous for crisp edges doused in sauce. The thick, tomato-based sauce with brown sugar, garlic and pepper helps give K.C. barbecue its famous taste. A delicious beer to accentuate the sauce’s rich flavor is Boulevard Brewing’s summer Belgian witbier, Zon. Its subtle flavors of coriander and orange go hand-in-hand with the earthy edges of genuine K.C. brisket and the sweetness of its brown sugar sauce.
The Heart of Texas
In Texas, there is no debate: Beef is king. Rubs and sauces are not as important as time and wood smoke (hickory, mesquite or oak). Texas brisket is traditionally served on a piece of white bread, accompanied by a thin sauce of tomato, vinegar and chiles. Saint Arnold’s Summer Pils from Houston is a Bohemian-style pilsner with a malty sweetness and hoppy dryness, complementary to the natural sweetness and slow-cooked juiciness of Texas brisket.