Today is National Cheeseburger Day (September 18th). And, if you’re going to fire up the grill, you’ll need something to drink while you cook (and then eat). So, we turned to the team of somms and cicerones that we
keep locked up well lubricated in Neat Pour HQ, and compiled their list of suggestions. Of course, crazy condiments can complicate the taste profiles, but here are some starters to drink with your standard beef cheeseburger:
Beer is the classic match for hamburgers. While pretty much any brew will do the job, some do it better than others. Be careful not to go for something too light as it will get lost in the burger. Likewise, a beer that is too heavy will only guarantee that you don’t finish your meal. Instead, look for beers that feature pronounced, classic flavors like hops and malt and easily quaffable nature. Some spice can be nice, but don’t get too crazy unless you inexplicably believe that heavy fruit and ground beef are a good match.
- IPA’s – No, the IPA fad is not dead yet. In the context of cheeseburgers, these brews are actually perfect. The strong flavors stand up to the bold tastes of a hamburger and the hoppy, bitter nature of the IPA offsets the burger’s grease and provide a palate cleanser during a very flavor forward meal.
- American Pale Ales – A nice balance between malt and hop along with an easy drinking nature makes Pale Ales the classic choice for burgers. Once again, the hops will cut through the fat and the malt will compliment the burger’s other fixins. The suds are complex enough to stand their own along with the food, but sufficiently understated that they will not overwhelm the meal.
- Belgian Style Beers – If hops are not your thing, opt for a Belgian brew, like a saison. For starters these beers are perfect for cooling off after a hard day working at the grill. They are lighter, but the distinct mix of spices means that they will not collapse when confronted with big, burger flavors. Citrus flavors will provides some acidity to counteract the fat and baking spices will pair well with the starchy bun.
Wine can also pair surprisingly well with cheeseburgers. Plenty of bottles will do the job, but typically you’re looking for something that is bright, but with a high acidity. American palates also tend to prefer higher ABV’s with their meat… and the cheeseburger is as American as you can get.
- California Zinfandels – If you must indulge in stereotypical California wine, here is the perfect application. Old vine zins with their high ABV, jam bomb flavors, and strong acidity can stand toe-to-toe with the boldest burger.
- Lambrusco – Lambruscos are overlooked gems from Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy in Northeast Italy. If you’re working with quality meat, keep it simple with a nice char and let that bitterness play off the wine’s touch of sweetness. Additionally, the bubbles of the frizzante style juice will play off the burger’s high fat content.
- Jura Poulsard – Poulsard is our sleeper pick for the adventurous. Generally a little light bodied, but if you’re using some nice cheese, this wine will really showcase your selection. There’s enough acidity to tackle the fat issue, but still plenty of fruit to go around.
Our expert opinion is that burgers, and the act of grilling, are really better paired with beer or wine. (You’re going to find yourself with a nice buzz if you try to wash down a half pound of beef with 35% ABV beverage.) However, if you insist, check out Don Lee’s famed Benton’s Old Fashioned* at PDT. Lee’s riff on the classic is built on bacon washed bourbon, and the only thing better than a cheeseburger is a bacon cheeseburger.
*Editor’s Note: Fat washing is safe when practiced properly, but it generally is not practiced properly. Leave this one to a trusted pro.