What Beer to Pair with Barbecue Ribs

There's nothing quite better in the summertime than a good barbecue. This beer pairing with sweet, sticky barbecued ribs is the reason "opposites attract" in the pairing world.

The Fourth of July is this weekend! I thought I would help y'all out on how to celebrate by showcasing these delicious ribs I cooked up recently. I'm especially excited for the fourth this year because I finally live in a normal town that celebrates holidays. Vegas was always too hot to do anything for the fourth. This year, my sister is coming up to celebrate and I plan on barbecuing all. weekend. long.

The Pairing

For the first time ever I made these sweet barbecued ribs; did you know these take HOURS to make? Not going to lie, almost every time I crave ribs its on short notice so we end up just making some grilled with a dry rub. But if you want the sticky, finger-lickin kind, you gotta put in the time!

Sweet foods can be really difficult to pair with beverages. Forget wine on this pairing--nothing will work. The sweetness from the glaze would just make any red wine taste bitter and astringent (from the tannins). White wine wouldn't really stand up to the meat either. What we need here is beer. Its more appropriate for a barbecue, anyway.

For this meal I chose one of the best things with barbecue: Brown Ale. Some of you might think "BORING!" but have you tried Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron? Ringing in at 12% alcohol, its anything but boring.

Why brown ales work with sweet barbecue: contrast. Brown ales have a good roastiness to them without being too roasty (like a dry stout would be). This character works with any char you'll get from the grill (see that beautiful char on those ribs above?) while also balancing out the sweetness from the glaze. On top of that, most brown ales also possess a little bit of sweetness as well, which will complement the sweetness in the dish. When it comes to barbecue and grilled foods, brown ales are your winning ticket.

Side note--although I initially chose (and took pictures of) the Dogfish Head Marron for this post, when Andrew and I were eating the meal, the high alcohol and super-duper extreme roastiness of that beer was borderline overpowering to the ribs. We tried it with a few other brown ales with lower alcohol which fit much better as pairings.

My Beer Pairing Suggestions

Brown Ales

  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale
  • Anchor Brewing Breckle's Brown Ale
  • Victory Brewing Victory Village
  • Brooklyn Brewing Brooklyn Brown
  • Abita Turbodog
  • Tenaya Creek Bonanza Brown

Other Beers

  • English Brown Ales (more sweetness than American Brown Ales)
  • Milk Stout
  • Foreign Extra Stout (high alcohol but overall sweeter)

The Recipe

This barbecue rib recipe doesn't actually require any barbecue sauce, instead you make your own glaze. And the glaze has beer in it! Use whatever you're drinking, or brown ale since that's what we're pairing this recipe with. Also--if you don't have a grill that allows you to cook with indirect heat, feel free to use your oven to make these.

Barbecue Ribs

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 45 mins

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 45 mins

Serves: 4


  • 2 1/2 lbs. pork baby back ribs (or spare ribs will work too)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp beer (American lager, pilsner, or brown ale will do just fine...whatever you're drinking)
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp dry mustard


  1. Heat a grill (or oven) to medium-low (about 325 F). The key to cooking these ribs is with indirect heat, so make sure there is no gas burner or charcoal area providing direct heat to where the ribs will sit.
  2. Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. We do this because it can cook the ribs unevenly while grilling. There are lots of online resources if you need to learn how to do this.
  3. In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper, and cayenne. Sprinkle each side of the ribs with this mixture and rub in if necessary. Wrap the ribs in foil and let sit for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, place the ribs in their foil bone side down on the grill over indirect heat. Place a drip pan underneath the meat so your grill/oven doesn't get any liquid on it. Cook, covered, for about an hour, until the ribs are fairly tender when pierced through the foil.
  5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cider vinegar, beer, red chile flakes, and dry mustard. Whisk together and add a little water if you want it to be a bit more "saucy". Set aside 1/4 cup of the glaze to use as sauce when eating.
  6. After the ribs are done, transfer them to a rimmed pan, carefully remove the foil and place them on the grill again, bone side up.
  7. Baste ribs with the glaze. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Every ten minutes, turn the ribs over and baste with more glaze, until the ribs are browned and tender, about 30-40 minutes total.
  8. Remove the ribs from the grill when finished and tent loosely with foil for about 10 minutes. Brush the 1/4 cup of reserved glaze over them and serve.

Happy Fourth of July, and Happy Pairing!