This Barbecue Sauce and Beer Pairing Guide Is What Father’s Day Dreams Are Made Of
Don't forget to BYO napkins, fam.
Fun fact: the first barbecue sauces were mostly made of butter. The earliest reference found that mentions a sauce for barbecue was in a cookbook published in 1867 by Mrs. A.P. Hill—it contains half a pound of butter, a spoonful of mustard, salt, pepper, and vinegar. We don’t hate the idea, but let’s just say that the barbecue sauce biz has gotten quite a bit more interesting since then. The most popular type today is the Kansas City style (the sweet, smoky, Ketchup-y kind we’re all used to) but there are endless other delectable options to coat your chicken, ribs, and previously clean clothes.
This Father’s Day, give dad the greatest grill gift he never knew you needed: a BBQ sauce and beer-pairing bar. We teamed up with Chef Yankel from Butcherbox to bring you the basics on the top eight types of barbecue sauce—plus the meats they pair with and the beers you’ll need to drink alongside each sauce to dial the party up a notch. Butter optional.
Alabama White BBQ sauce
This one of the more unique sauces, mainly because American perception of BBQ sauce by and large involves something that looks and tastes like fancy ketchup. Honestly, mixing mayo and horseradish is phenomenal. Robert Gibson knew what he was doing 96 years ago when he invented the sauce.
Best used on grilled chicken or pork chops. Lightly flavored meat, some char from the grill, a creamy tangy sauce to dip into.
Best paired with a summer ale, something with a creamy finish and citrus notes.
Memphis BBQ sauce
Traditionally a dry rub only, but Memphis-style is sometimes served as a sauce-on-the-side. This tomato-based sauce boasts lots of molasses and vinegar, so it's certainly familiar, but much thinner than your average BBQ sauce.
Best used on smoked baby back ribs. A great way to serve ribs if you like to be a bit dainty about it. The ribs are dry, the sauce is wet, your fingers stay clean! Mostly…
Best paired with an IPA that is light and refreshing but has some bitter hoppy undertones. If you want something to bang heads with the smoky spicy bark on great ribs, a West Coast IPA will do the trick.
Texas BBQ sauce
It's known for its huge, immense flavor (everything is bigger in Texas, right?). Texas-style features a tomato sauce base and a combination of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice. Texas sauce also has some extra heat from cayenne peppers, chipotle peppers or some other chili pepper.
Best used on brisket—there really is no other choice. It's beefy, bold, fatty, and the most flavorful of all the meats, so you've got to pair with the richest of all sauces.
Best paired with a light beer, mostly because you want room for more brisket. "All the ranchers I know drink Michelob Ultra like water. So judge if need be, but don’t knock it until you've tried it," says Chef Yankel.
Missouri BBQ sauce
A classic tomato-based sauce that is sweet and sticky. Good pork tends to be sweet and the classic St. Louis sauce is sweet as well, so these two are a match made in heaven. If you’re gonna sauce your ribs, this is the way to do it.
Best used with St. Louis ribs (of course) or any fatty cut of BBQ pork.
Best paired with a hoppy beer, something that cuts the richness, definitely a lager.
Kansas City BBQ sauce
Kansas City stye is the closest to the universal BBQ sauce experience. It’s a thick, sweet, smoky, tomato-based sauce. Ketchup is a key ingredient and it's pretty much delicious on anything.
Best used with a 'beefy beef' like sirloin steak, chuck steak, cowboy cut or brisket burnt ends. Whatever you choose, it has to have enough beefy flavor to marry well with such a rich sauce.
Best paired with a Budwieser. "It would be the patriotic choice here, right?" says Chef Yankel. We agree.
South Carolina BBQ sauce
Here is where we leave the tomato behind. Mustard, vinegar and spices make this sauce a spicy, super tangy, a dash of sweetness.
Best used with pulled pork. Hands down.
Best paired with a craft IPA, something with citrus or even tropical notes. The fruity element adds sweetness as a counterpoint to the tanginess of the sauce.
Eastern North Carolina BBQ sauce
With Eastern North Carolina-style, we encounter perhaps the simplest of the BBQ sauces—it's basically just vinegar and spices. This sauce works well with anything grilled or smoked and really lets the meat speak for itself.
Best used with pork chops, grilled chicken, dressing for a chicken salad and lighter meats in general that can use a tangy boost.
Best paired with a light, pale lager. Pilsner would be a great choice because it's full bodied enough to add some richness, but light enough not to overwhelm.
Western North Carolina BBQ sauce
Similar to Eastern, but with the addition of some tomato. Word of advice: don't get into a debate with anyone about which is better—this is a touchy subject.
Best used with richer cuts of light meat, chicken thighs, pork sirloin, and country ribs. The tomato adds a bit of sweet acidity that helps those more flavorful cuts.
Best paired with a wheat beer—it should add a bit of muted sweetness with a barely-there tanginess.