Gaffel Kölsch, Cologne, Germany (£2.32, 50cl, Beers of Europe) Even with the pubs opening this weekend, the barbecue still feels like one of the safer ways to socialise at the moment. And the call of the grill is all the stronger when the weather is doing its best to persuade us to eat outside. What to drink alfresco? As anyone from Hank Hill to Homer Simpson would tell you, no barbecue is truly worthy of the name without some beer to hand – and, for the person behind the grill, in hand. I imagine the closest thing to fictional Alamo or Duff would be a Bud, and there’s something to be said for lightness and refreshment as you’re turning the sausages. But, to my mind, few drinks fulfil this role better than the pristine, refreshing Kölsch style of lager from Cologne, of which Gaffel is a classic example.
Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock, Kent, UK (£2.89, 75cl, Asda) The other key drink at every barbecue I’ve been to in the States has been Coca-Cola: not just as a soft alternative to all the beer, but as a marinade ingredient for brilliantly sticky pork ribs. Back home, I’ve found that the note of aniseed in dandelion and burdock helps create an even more complex marinade and Fentiman’s version makes a more refreshing match for ribs once they’re ready to eat. If you’d prefer to stick to beer, there’s something to be said for those capable of matching the smokiness of barbecued food with their own smoky notes. The German style of rauchbier fits that definition very well, and, the dark, richly smoky-savoury style of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (from £2.39, drinksupermarket.com) works brilliantly with smoke-infused burgers.
Château Sainte Eulalie Cuvée Cantilène, Minervois La Livinière, France, 2017 (£13.50, The Wine Society) To an extent, the idea that some drinks are suited to barbecued food might seem as daft as suggesting some go better with food cooked in an oven: what you’re putting on the grill will dictate what you want to drink with it as much as the infusion of smokiness. Still, some wines really do work well with specific barbecue dishes. The scintillating limey tang and peachy notes of a dry German riesling, such as Schneider Melaphyr Riesling, Nahe, Germany 2018 (£14.70, thewinebarn.co.uk) is excellent with fat prawns with a simple citrus and chilli marinade. And the deep, dark bramble berry fruit, black olive, pepper spice and supple grippy texture of a well-made modern Languedoc red, such as Château Sainte Eulalie’s, was made to go with a rosemary and garlic-studded, barbecued leg of lamb.
Follow David on Twitter @Daveydaibach
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010