Beer Geek

5 American beers for your Labor Day barbecue

Aug. 30, 2012 at 10:51 AM ET

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Beer and barbecue is the perfect way to celebrate Labor Day. Quench your thirst with delicious American craft brews!

The final barbecue holiday of the year is upon us, and nothing goes better with burgers, dogs or baby back ribs than a bubbly craft beer.  As we’re celebrating America’s working men and women this Labor Day, don’t reach for just any craft beer; reach for one from a brewing company that’s also brewing up jobs.

Here are five craft beers that pair wonderfully with tasty grilled treats and the booming breweries behind them.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

This citrusy and balanced hop-forward American Pale Ale has set the standard for this style of beer for over 30 years and pairs well with spicy foods like grilled Cajun shrimp or a kicking chipotle black bean burger.

The brewery: California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is one of America’s oldest and largest craft breweries, and they continue to grow.  Sierra Nevada has a new brewery in the works in Mills River, N.C., to help feed the demand for their products on the East Coast. According to CNBC, the project will create 95 full-time and 80 part time jobs, not to mention all the planning and construction work that will occur between now and the anticipated opening date in 2014.  If you’ve ever thought about working as a brewer, start looking in North Carolina — it’s becoming the new epicenter of the craft beer boom.

Survey: What's your favorite craft beer to drink while watching football?

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

This brew is a sublimely balanced IPA that’s sweet, floral and unconditionally delicious. It’s extra tasty when combined with fresh eats like grilled chicken with cilantro and lime or spicy pulled pork sandwiches.

The brewery: Bell’s Brewery in Galesburg, Mich., (just east of Kalamazoo) has just added a new production facility that’s capable of producing 500,000 barrels of beer a year. At 31 gallons per barrel, that’s over 15 million gallons annually.  According to Bellsbeer.com, over 400 skilled trade workers spent more than 90,000 hours working on the new place, numbers that illustrate the financial benefits the craft beer boom has created outside the industry.  Unless they were working for beer, which I’d totally understand.

Fat Tire Amber Ale

New Belgium’s very popular Fat Tire Amber Ale is a light and bready American amber that finds fans with beer geeks and mainstream beer lovers alike.  It’s terrific to sip alongside smoked pork chops or for making beer can chicken

The brewery: New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo., is another western brewery that has announced plans to open a brewery in North Carolina, this time in Ashville, where a new $175 million, 400,000 barrel facility is in the works.  While there has been some sniping about the sweetheart tax deal New Belgium was given on the project, it’s hard to argue that the brewery won’t be good for workers in Ashville, as the Denver Post reports the average annual wage at the brewery will be $50,000 plus benefits, which outstrips the typical income in the area by 43 percent.

Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

This is a big and smooth wheat treat with a fruity hop finish. This full-flavored and aromatic beer can be enjoyed with a fat burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese or grilled pork tenderloin rubbed with rosemary and extra garlic.

The brewery: Lagunitas is another successful craft brewery with dreams too big for their current facilities.  This Northern California-based brewery grew by over 50% in 2011, and continues to expand at a breakneck pace. They recently wrapped up a $10 million expansion of their Petaluma facility, and plans are in the works to double capacity by opening a new $15 to $18 million brewing facility in Chicago.  The new brewery will add another 100 jobs to Lagunitas’ ranks, which currently employs 150 people.

Mama’s Little Yella Pils

It’s a bready Pilsner with a grassy hop profile that’s a wonderfully refreshing treat and pairs wonderfully with a sun dried tomato and pesto pasta salad, especially one with a hearty dash of Parmesan cheese on board. 

The brewery: Longmont, Colo.’s Oskar Blues Brewery, known for selling its craft brews exclusively in cans, recently came in at No. 830 on the Inc. 5000, a list of America’s fastest growing companies. Oskar Blues has added 109 people to their ranks over a three-year span and, like fellow brewers New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, will be opening a new facility in North Carolina in the near future.  The fast-tracked plan will have Oskar Blues pumping beer at the rate of 400,000 barrels per year by January.

We appreciate people who “make things” in America, just as we like to root for the little guy hitting it big.  You can celebrate both of these things by lifting any one of these delightful craft beers this weekend, or maybe one brewed by a smaller place near you – they’re creating jobs as well.

Tell us what your favorite barbecue and beer pairings are in the comments below! 

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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