Many people agonise over what meal they would have as their last if they were on death row. Not me! It would be steak every time. It is my favourite meal, it is the one I will always ask for if given the chance. As you can imagine, I am also a pretty big fan of beer. Finding out what beer goes with steak is clearly a task that suits my interests.
One of the best things about steak is that it can go well with pretty much any beer. Dark or light. You can go down the route of pairing your beer with a light, refreshing beer such as a low abv IPA, an ice-cold lager, or a pale ale. Or you can go for deeper, richer flavours. Belgian beer goes particularly well with red meat. Stouts and porters are also excellent accompaniments.
In this article, I am going to talk about how the different beer styles complement steak, and which beers best represent each style (in my opinion). I will also talk about using beer as a marinade for steak, and provide a recipe for perfectly barbequed steak sandwiches.
As I said earlier, basically any beer goes well with steak. Though some are slightly better than others. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a fruit beer, nor would I recommend a lambic or gueuze beer. Some of the sweeter stouts and porters would also not be ideal.
The reason? They are very sweet. This doesn’t mean that they won’t go well with certain meat dishes. But they don’t really fit well with steaks. Think about your coffee stouts, or a coconut porter (yes they exist). The taste is excellent but it won’t mix well with a steak. It would be better served with dessert.
In this article, I will identify ten beer styles that best suit steak. I will then mention a couple of specific beers from each style. If you have a personal favourite, then please mention it in the comments. I may even add it to the article (if I can be arsed).
Steak has been around for a long time, so this is a little difficult to answer. But as an Englishman, I am always happy when my nation can take credit for something. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Britian was so famous for roast beef that the French would refer to them as “Rosbif”. As the British referred to the French as “Frogs” I kind of feel like we won that round.
Steak was also popular, and in 1705, the first Beef Steak Club was founded in London. The idea behind the club was to celebrate politics and Britishness by eating steak (which was seen as quintessentially British at the time) and baked potatoes. They would drink porter alongside it, followed by port (fortified wine) and singing, drinking more, and being generally raucous.
So the traditional beer to be served with steak would appear to be porter. However, it should be pointed out that in the 18th century in London, porter was pretty much the only beer in town. So a better answer would probably be that you can have any beer that you can get your hands on.
IPAs work really well with steak, as they can impart a bitterness and citrus flavours that compliment the steak well. Personally, I’d go for a really fruity IPA such as Clwb Tropicana by Tiny Rebel Brewery.
You’ve got the American hops and tropical flavourings that will go well with your steak. There is also a little bitterness from the beer.
Another excellent IPA that goes great with steak is Goose Island IPA. It’s quite a subtly flavoured IPA, so it won’t overpower the meat. It’s nice and refreshing, you can always go for their Session IPA if you want something a little less strong.
I would avoid the IPA variations (West Coast IPA, New England IPA) as they can be a little too overpowering. You want a slight bitterness, and a touch of fruit. But West Coast IPAs and NEIPAs tend to be a bit much. That’s just my personal opinion though, and I would probably grab them.
Other IPAs that go well with steak? Brewdog’s Punk IPA is a good shout. Or perhaps Jaipur by Thornbridge, one of the best IPAs in the world!
Remember, serve IPAs cold, but not too cold. If the beer is too cold, the hoppy taste that makes IPAs great will be diminished. If you like your beer ice cold then a pilsner or lager would be a better choice.
The original Czech Pilsner, and one of the best beers around. I would also like to sneak in my favourite Japanese lager; Kirin Ichiban. Just because I adore it.
A German lager is always a good option, particularly a good Helles beer such as Spaten. Or a Marzen beer (the type served at Oktoberfest). Should it be served in a two-litre stein? Probably.
Another fantastic German pilsner you should consider is Veltins pilsner. Very crisp, a taste that will take nothing away from your steak, and will provide excellent refreshment.
You’ve also got Kolsch, the lager that is brewed in Cologne. If you can serve your beer in a traditional Kolsch glass then all the better!
Yes, I am aware that there are many different types of beer that are brewed in Belgium. But I definitely feel that Belgian beer deserves its own subsection in this article. Of course, as I have already written an article about my love for Affligem, it is going to be top of this list.
But if you fancy something a little different. You could pair your steak with a bottle of Orval. A Trappist ale that has an amazingly subtle taste of banana, lemon, and is served with a massive head on it. To increase the aroma.
Of course, you could also consider a wheat beer such as Hoegaarden. With subtle hints of coriander and lemon, this beer is perfectly refreshing and will go well with the salty, smokey, taste of the steak.
There are strong ales such as Duvel, La Chouffe, and Barbar, that could all be served cold. The powerful flavours would really go well with your steak, without overpowering it.
As I mentioned earlier, porter was the first beer to be served alongside steak, and stouts and porters are still popular with a steak today. Of course, this does depend on what mood you’re in, and what the weather is doing.
I will die to defend my answer that in glorious sunshine with your steak sizzling on the BBQ, a stout is NOT the right choice to accompany your steak. It should be a lager, or an IPA. But in winter, a gorgeous stout such as Guinness served in a proper pint glass would be a great choice.
We know that Guinness accompanies beef so well, which is why it is often added to beef stews. Check out my article on the best beer for beef stew to learn more. But there are many other stouts out there that would also do a good job. Mackeson’s stout is a good choice, particularly if you want a low-alcohol beer.
There are also some great porters out there. However, I’m not convinced that all of them are suitable for steak. Personally, I’m not a fan of mixing sweet beers with savoury food. There are lots of excellent sweet porters such as Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Marshmallow Porter, but would you really want something that tastes so sweet with a meat dish?
Same goes for very strong coffee or chocolate tasting porters. For that reason, I’d avoid Founders’ world-famous porter too. A good shout would be Fuller’s, London Porter. I feel that a London-based porter would do a good tribute to the original Beef Steak Clubs of 18th Century London.
I don’t often have steak when I go for a pub lunch. It is often overpriced, and rarely cooked to my liking. It is often served with peas as hard as bullets, and a rubbish mushroom.
However, I have occasionally experienced some excellent steak dinners in English pubs. When that has happened, I have often had a pint of real ale beside my plate. Usually, because the type of pub that cooks good steak often keeps good ale on tap.
Here is a selection of English ales (and pale ales) that I think go really well with steak:
The trick with these beers is not to serve them too cold, check out my article on beer storage for more information on the ideal temperature for each beer. While an ice-cold beer is often seen as best, serving these beers too cold will rob them of their flavour.
Wheat beers are massively underrated when it comes to food pairings. But they are probably the most versatile beers around. They are a perfect accompaniment to spicy foods, and they also go very well with steak.
There are two main types of wheat beers: German Weizenbier and Belgian Witbiers (which I half-covered in the Belgian Beers section). Both styles can be excellent accompaniments to steak.
While I always believe that you should be serving every beer in the correct glass, this is certainly the case for wheat beers. Get yourself a wheat beer glass if you can, and don’t drink it straight from the bottle. You are wasting a perfectly good beer if you do that!
While I have honestly added a list of beers that I believe go really well with steak. I do believe that steak is perfect with almost any beer. It’s one of those foods that suits anything. It also goes excellently with red wine.
What you need to do is find a beer that you like, and serve it properly. Nice clean glass (that is suited to the beer style), and the beer should be at the ideal temperature (again, check out my article on the subject to get the right beer temp).
What do you also need? A damn good piece of steak.
Before I go any further, I want to make it abundantly clear. I am not a chef. I cook a good steak (most of the time), but there are probably better guides out there than this one. That being said, you are already here. All you have to do is scroll down and you will get a really good guide to an awesome steak sandwich. Your move.
The first thing you need to do is buy a decent cut of steak. If you’re expecting anything other than disappointment with that tired lump of steak you got at the discount section of your Tesco Extra then you are in for a rude awakening.
That being said, you don’t need to be spending a fortune either. My Mrs picked up a couple of sirloin steaks for £5 each and we picked up a £4 rump steak too. Yes, that would be expensive to do for a family, and it is not something that we can afford to do daily. But think of steak as an occasional treat.
This recipe involves barbequing the steaks, because it is by far the best way to cook them (in my opinion). But you could also griddle them if you prefer. Here are the ingredients for 2 people:
I like to marinade the steaks at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes before cooking. So you may want to add that time into your calculations. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the barbeque to the right heat in any case.
I have a mini food processor from Amazon. It cost about £25-30. It is the greatest thing that has happened to me. All I do is toss the garlic and rosemary (remove the stems if possible) into the processor and blitz it for 20-30 seconds.
After that, I added a load of olive oil (yes, “load” is the measurement that I use) and gave it another blitz. Next, I poured the mixture over the steaks and used a brush to fully cover them.
I left the steaks to marinate for about 30 minutes. You really want them at room temperature so I left them on a windowsill (out of reach of the dog). If you want to marinade them for a few hours, then stick them in the fridge. Just ensure that you take them out 30 minutes before grilling. Room temperature is ideal.
I lit the barbeque and waited until the charcoal had gone grey. Then I slowly placed the steaks onto the grill rack, and let them cook for about 5 minutes before turning them over and cooking them for a further 2-3 minutes.
Don’t worry if the coals look a little “flat” to you, once the steaks are on the grill the fat and the oil will drip onto the coal and you’ll start to see some flames. If there are a lot of flames then move the steaks to the sides of the grill. This will prevent them from getting charred. Though, as the steaks are cooked so quickly it shouldn’t be an issue.
While the steaks were cooking I cut some slices of bread, and prepared my steak sauce of choice. I like a mix of English mustard and mayonnaise. Mustard goes really well with beef, but I find it too strong to have it just ladled on steak. Mixing it with mayonnaise leaves it a little less spicy, and the mixture tastes incredible.
I decided to make open-sandwiches because they are easier to eat. I took the steak off the grill and then placed the bread slices around the side. This would lightly toast them. My Mrs had made some home-cooked chips. She also stacked them nicely on the plate to make the photo look cool.
You can stick some bread on the top if you want a proper steak sandwich. But this worked out really well for us. We saved the rump steak for the next day, and it was amazing! Good rump steak is a seriously underrated cut of meat. I think that too often rump steak is overcooked and as a result, has a bad reputation.
As you have probably noticed, I did not marinate my steak in beer beforehand. The marinade that I used (olive oil, garlic, rosemary) works so well that I rarely deviate from that. But beer is definitely an excellent marinade for beef in general, so I’m sure it would be superb.
Most of the recipes online are variations of a well-known steak marinade: Soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, and beer.
I’ve tried this marinade before (without the beer) and it really is excellent. I usually add red wine to it, or red wine vinegar.
The beer that I would use for a steak marinade would be either a stout such as Guinness or Mackeson’s. Or you could go with a bottle of Affligem or similar Belgian beers. A Fuller’s London Pride would also be a good shout.
I’m not sure that this marinade would be better than the one that I use though. Marinades such as the one described here can sometimes pull focus from the steak itself, whereas the one I used in my recipe just accentuate the steak itself.
Perhaps if you’ve got a cheaper cut of steak, then this marinade would work really well. Personally, I find that many steak marinades tend to overpower the steak itself. You’ve already got the taste of the chargrill, and the meat itself. Pouring over a decent bottle of beer may be overkill.
I made the extra effort to cook my steak on a barbeque, and I’m really glad I did. Sure, it takes longer to set up. It is also more expensive and is largely weather-dependent (though it wasn’t exactly sunny while I cooked). But the extra flavour that comes from the charcoal makes it so worth it in my opinion.
I think the problem in Britain is that people think barbeques should be about cooking 20 different foods at once. This is fun, but it makes barbequing a real challenge. You’ve got a tonne of prep-work, you need to work out cooking times, and you overload your barbeque with foods. The stuff you put on first begins to burn, while the stuff you put on last is almost raw.
When I barbeque now, it is to cook one or two items. You get everything cooked perfectly, there is no stress, and clean up is simple.
If a barbeque is not realistic, then grilling your steak or flash-frying it can work too. I think both can be done well, but the result isn’t quite as good. Still, not quite perfect steak is going to be 10x better than perfectly cooked anything else!
Other than perhaps pizza or burgers, I don’t think that there is a better combination than steak and beer. It’s a classic combination (going back to the 18th century at least) and it should last for decades to come. After that, we’ll all be fighting for resources!
I have tried my hardest to give a list of the best beers to have while eating a steak. But honestly? Almost any beer will go well with steak. That is the beauty of steak. Pick your favourite beer, and make sure it is served well.
I’ve rarely had a bad steak and beer, not because I was chasing perfection. But because there are so many ways to have a good steak and beer. What are your favourite combinations? Please let me know in the comments below.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.