The wide realm of beer has just started to be discovered in our country. But one of the least explored aspects is beer and food pairings. This is why when La Barra de Grau asked me to put together a 6-pack of barbecue beers, I was more than pleased to agree. First, because the sunshine and the hot weather that have started to rule over our land entice us to head toward the beach or the country club where we end up in a culinary communion by the grill with relatives and friends. Second, because the price of the two or three good 750 ml wine bottles we would need for our pairings is way higher than these six excellent 330 ml of craft beer. And third, because working on this entry led us to one of the best barbecue places in Lima and the coziest I know: Pablo Profumo’s El Parrillón.
Basic guidelines demand a beer that goes well with the vegetables and salad that are served along with the barbecued meat; some beers that sing in harmony with some sweetbreads, chinchulines, and chorizos, and some beers to pair with a nice cut of grilled steak. But I had to taste my chosen beers to see that they really played their part well. Fortunately, my enthusiasm for food photography had me meet Pablo Profumo and his El Parrillón in 2015 while shooting the pictures for an article in Revista Sommelier by Soledad Marroquín, so I had the barbecue courses as a mental reference for the pairings. Pablo was more than open to the idea of pairing brews and asado. Only the beers were missing, so I picked six local beers I have very well memorized.
Before our first pairing, let us go briefly over the guidelines for beer pairings. While it is true that, as a general rule, beer and food of similar colors will make us look good when pairing them, experts agree that the beer elements to take into account are the aroma (responsible of most of the flavor), the intensity (of flavor, alcohol content, and body), carbonation (in charge of rinsing the palate), brightness (in terms of bright flavors or the lack of them), bitterness (from hops), sweetness (from malts), and roast (of malted and unmalted barley).
Let the barbecue beer pairing begin now. Vegetables must never be missed —says my wife— so a salad is the starting point. Here are some cherry tomatoes, green and purple lettuce leaves, palm hearts, Parmesan cheese, and grilled chicken. The ideal pairing is a Costumbres’s Cream Ale. A style such as the cream ale with its mild flowery and citrusy aromas, big carbonation, and low but lightly pungent bitterness goes perfectly with this crisp salad. In fact, the beer would also go well with some grilled vegetables. Another beer that would also work well here is Magdalena’s Pistolera.
Then we have some sweetbreads as only El Parrillón knows how to make. Creamy and golden. My bet this time is Hops’s Doppel Bock and Invictus’s Alquimista. In the case of the former beer, the alcohol intensity, the great body, and the spritziness of the Doppel Bock cleanse the palate and tongue with every new sip and complements the richness of dark flavors from the sweetbreads. On the other hand, Invictus‘s dubbel wraps itself around the sweetbreads thanks to its aromatic bouquet full of spices and its great body and intense flavor. In our opinion, both beers would also go well with some chinchulines, so keep this combination in mind too.
Now come some artisanal chorizos and longanizas. The former are made with pork and beef, and the latter are made with added spices and cognac. Rightly done and served at the proper temperature, these delights tie themselves well to Cumbres’ Roja. The caramelized aromas from its malts and the rich natural fizziness make this beer go wonderfully with the caramelized proteins of the sausages. For the longanizas, Invictus Alquimista is still my first option. Another good option for the chorizos is Sierra Andina’s Alpamayo.
We finish with a juicy, tender, lean, and delicious colita de cuadril (rump steak). Our bet here is Oveja Negra‘s Traicionera and Barbarian‘s Garaje Brown Ale. Being a Double IPA, Traicionera makes a huge impression with its hops and full body, which results in a great pairing with our meat cut. Naturally, Traicionera must be enjoyed with moderation if we take into account its 10.1 % alcohol by volume. Perhaps one bottle is more than enough for two. If what we are looking for is a lighter pairing option, Garaje Brown Ale is the right choice with its 6.1 % ABV. Do not keep yourselves from trying this beer pairing with Magdalena‘s Brown and Invictus‘s Ilusionista.
It was a real pleasure to have worked on this first pairing article. I chose all the beers and courses, and I ended up quite satisfied with the results I got at El Parrillón. Do not miss out on the opportunity to taste this barbecue beers 6-pack I curated for La Barra de Grau. Get one and gather around the grill at home, beach, country club, or wherever you most enjoy the company of the people you love. Get those coolers ready, check the pressure of your tires, and do not forget to pick up some charcoal.
Cheeers and bon appétit!
José Castro is a certified barista keen on reading, writing, and self-learning. In addition to being a father of one and husband of one, he is a columnist with Catering & Gastronomía magazine and a contributing writer to Cocktail magazine. Translator, photography aficionado, and former singer of a Beatles tribute band, he runs his own blog on beer, cocktails, coffee, and their food pairings at TomandoAltura.com under the pen name El Gourmetógrafo. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.