BBQ Beer Pairings

We asked some of Portland’s top chefs for their hot tips for BBQ season—and, most important, the sidekick suds to wash it all down.

By Benjamin Tepler June 14, 2013

0713 john stewart beer food pairing bmgkfh

John Stewart, Meat Cheese Bread & Beer Bottle Shop

Dish: Lamb Burger with Lemon Fennel Slaw and Grilled Pepper Harissa
Beer: 10 Barrel Brewing Swill

Why: Stewart says a glass of the just-released Swill is like “drinking summertime.” A spin on a traditional German radler, the Swill blends sour wheat Berliner Weisse with grapefruit juice to create a dangerously drinkable summer beer. This citrus-amped brew echoes the zesty flavors of fennel slaw and cuts through the gamey richness of the lamb. 



Serves 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ lbs ground lamb
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs (or diced bread)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 ciabatta buns, cut in half
  • Olive oil (for brushing)
  • Grilled pepper harissa*
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • Lemon fennel slaw*
  • 6 oz (about a cup) feta cheese, crumbled

(1) HEAT olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté onions and garlic until translucent.

(2) EMPTY skillet contents into a bowl and fold in lamb, bread crumbs, milk, egg, oregano, salt, and pepper; shape into 6 ½-inch-thick patties.

(3) GRILL burgers over medium-high heat for 8 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

(4) WHILE the burgers are cooking, brush ciabatta with olive oil and lightly grill until warm.

(5) SPREAD harissa on both sides of the bun, add burger and lettuce, and top with a healthy pile of fennel slaw and crumbled feta.



  • 4–5 dried red chiles
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves, skewered  
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup olive oil

(1) DESEED chiles and cover with boiling water; soak for 15 minutes.

(2) BRUSH jalapeño, red peppers, and garlic cloves with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

(3) GRILL over medium-high heat, rotating frequently, until lightly charred and cooked through.

(4) PLACE peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 10 minutes.

(5) PEEL, destem, and remove the seeds from bell peppers, and remove stem and seeds from the jalapeño.

(6) PUREE first 7 ingredients, slowly drizzling in olive oil.



  • 2 heads fennel
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

(1) SHAVE fennel into thin slices using a sharp knife or mandoline.

(2) WHISK remaining ingredients together, and add shaved fennel.

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Jason French, Ned Ludd

Dish: Grilled Chicken with Summer Vegetable Salad and Herbaceous Buttermilk Dressing
Beer: The Commons Brewery Pils

Why: It takes an entire herb garden to execute French’s grilled hen dish—it’s brined in lavender, doused in creamy buttermilk dressing, and speckled with a confetti of parsley, tarragon, chives, and dill. The Commons’ dry, northern German–style pilsner mimics the chicken’s complex flavors, offering crisp, floral, and herbal undertones.



Serves 4–6

  • 2 quarts water
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp lavender (fresh if possible)
  • 4 sprigs fresh sage
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 chicken, quartered
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

(1) COMBINE water, salt, fennel seed, and black peppercorns in a pot and bring to a boil.

(2) SIMMER 15–20 minutes and pour over lavender, sage, and thyme in a large bowl.

(3) ADD ice to cool the brine, and place in refrigerator.

(4) ADD chicken when the liquid is cooled, and brine for 4–5 hours.

(5) PULL chicken out of the brine, dry with paper towels, coat in olive oil, and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper.

(6) COVER a grill with tin foil and cook the chicken over high heat for 20–25 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.

(7) REMOVE chicken from grill and let rest for 10 minutes.



  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1 pinch salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup assorted chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, dill, or chervil)

(1) MACERATE shallot in vinegar, a tablespoon of the sugar and a pinch of salt, and place in a large mason jar for 40 minutes.

(2) ADD remaining ingredients, cover with lid, and shake to mix, seasoning to taste.



  • 1 large head lettuce
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 head fennel, cored and shaved
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked and cut off the cob
  • ½ cup assorted chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, dill, or chervil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

(1) COMBINE ingredients and toss with buttermilk dressing.

(2) SEASON with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and serve alongside grilled chicken.

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Alyssa Gregg, Spints Alehouse (now closed)

Dish: Bärenjäger Baby Back Ribs
Beer: Heater Allen Coastal Lager

Why: At Spints Alehouse, Gregg has all the German tricks up her sleeve. She marinates her ribs overnight in honey-based Bärenjäger liqueur, and pairs the fatty, liquor-glazed rack with an amber lager sporting some serious hops. Heater Allen’s Coastal has caramel and toffee notes that practically sing with the caramelized ribs, and enough gusto to stand up to the carnal pork flavor. 



Serves 4 

  • 1 cup Barenjager Honey Liqueur
  • 1 cup sweet Riesling
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1/8 cup Champagne vinegar                           
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chile flakes
  • 2 racks baby back ribs

(1) COMBINE all ingredients and marinate ribs overnight.

(2) REMOVE ribs and simmer the marinade until reduced by half.

(3) GRILL ribs over low heat for two hours, basting often with the marinade reduction. (Ribs are done when the meat pulls away from the bone with little resistance.)

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