Whatchya Drinkin’ With That?

Beer, sure. (But what kind?) Surprise! Wine works wonderfully, too.

Illustration by John S. Dykes

We asked Mark Censits, founder and owner of the three Cool Vines wine-and-spirits shops in Westfield, Princeton and Jersey City, to recommend beers (from Jersey brewers) and, yes, wines (under $20 a bottle) that pair well.

MEAT

Pork

Beer: Pale ales are a great choice, or pick a brown or red ale for a little more flavor. North Bergen-based New Jersey Beer Company’s Hudson Pale Ale is flavorful and not too hoppy for the subtle taste of unsauced pork.
Wine: Try a slightly full white, like pinot blanc. My favorites are from Alsace. In reds, step up to a pinot noir, a Barbera from Northern Italy or perhaps a Chinon from the Loire Valley in France.

Brisket
Beer: Full-bodied brews like porter and stouts are my pick. Kane in Ocean Township makes an interesting limited-edition porter called Morning Bell, brewed with coffee from Rook Roasters in Monmouth County.
Wine: We’re solidly into reds here. The fat in the brisket coats the tannins, makes them smooth. Go with reds of the Southern Rhone and Languedoc in France, or from Priorat in Spain, all anchored with the grenache grape. California reds, with their smooth tannins, would be good too. Try a red Meritage blend.

Chicken
Beer: Lagers and pilsners, being light bodied, let subtle flavors shine through. High Point in Butler makes a fine Ramstein Golden Lager, fuller flavored than commercial-scale lagers.
Wine: Finger Lakes dry Rieslings have come a long way. Un-oaked chardonnays from Chile, Argentina or coastal California also work well. For reds, light and fruity Beaujolais is lovely. Gamay, the Beaujolais grape, likes cooler climates, and Oregon produces some nice ones.

SAUCES

Vinegar

Beer: Flemish sour ales work well. River Horse has come out with a Cranberry Sour Ale I’m excited about. Or try a saison, which is low in alcohol.
Wine: Northern Italian whites tend to be zingy and blended for food friendliness. Pinot grigio is an often denigrated grape, but the better ones are really bright and have a lot of complexity and fruit flavors.

Mustard-Vinegar
Beer: Bright and hoppy IPAs contrast well with the mustard. Flying Fish in Somerdale makes a nice one, Hopfish.
Wine: You need strong acidity, as in a light-bodied sauvignon blanc. Chile makes some phenomenal ones, especially in the coastal regions. They’re crisp and food friendly. In reds, stay with high acidity, like a Sangiovese, the grape in Chianti.

Ketchup-Molasses
Beer: You can go for contrast, with smooth, palate-cleansing wheat beers and pilsners. Or go complementary, with maltier beers like the Nut Brown Ale from Climax Brewing in Roselle Park.
Wine: Gewürtztraminer is an unctuous, spicy white that works well. Champagne and other dry sparkling wines cut right through the sweetness and heat. They’re incredibly versatile. Lambruscos are sparkling reds from Italy. They’re refreshing and have good fruit, an amazing pairing with these thick, sweet-hot sauces.

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