It takes a certain kind of person to want to drink beer with his Breakfast Jack, but we’re pretty sure we want to be his new best friend.
But not just any beer, mind you. No our friend is much more refined that that. He understands that fast food, good fast food, is not simply the repurposed soy slosh you wash down with too-syrupy Coke. It’s something that deserves to be relished. Celebrated. Perhaps, not with all the pomp of a Clara Brut Champagne, but come on, you could at least break out the Hefeweizens.
The way your friend sees it, why waste your precious taste buds on overpriced fountain sodas when you could purposely pair that Western Bacon Cheeseburger with a nice smoky Rauchbier? Or a Fish Filet with watery iced tea when you could be drinking a Kolsch?
The simple lesson he hopes to teach you, old sport, is that you wouldn’t. Since beer has malt, you’re able to pair it with all kinds of foods, similar to how you’d eat anything with at least some kind of bread. So put down that awful, ‘beetees-causing, “diet” Pepsi and kick back this summer with any of these fast food x beer pairings, courtesy of our friends over at Total Wine & More in Tustin.
Just don’t try them in the drive-thru, k?
McDonald’s Fish Filet x Goose Island Summertime Kolsch
TW: “With fish, any kind of white meat, you wanna have like a lighter beer. The thing with beer is you wanna do one of three C’s: It’s either you wanna contrast it, complement it, or cut it. Kolsch is a lighter German style from the Old World. It’s a summer, seasonal beer: very light, crisp, little bready. Not bitter, not hoppy or anything like that – just really nice and smooth. A good, refreshing, summertime lawnmower beer.”
Verdict: The crisp carbonation washed out the slick, doughy mouthfeel of the fish filet breading, while the citrus helped dress up the tartar sauce.
Goose Island Summertime Kolsch
Illinois — “The color of sunshine, with a light fruity aroma and a hint of fruity acidity, this is the perfect summer session ale. A Kolsch beer brewed in the traditional German fashion, you’ll find yourself enjoying and savoring each sip of summertime.”
Carl’s Jr Western Bacon Cheeseburger x Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen
TW: “If you can pronounce it, I’ll give you a dollar because I sure can’t. This beer is really, really, really smoky. It smells like burnt bacon for the most part. There’s a little bit of bitterness on the end because of the hops. The bitterness helps cut through fatty things, because this is clearly a fatty burger. Overall though, smoke. Good barbecue beer.”
Verdict: For anyone who hasn’t had a smoky beer before, the nose is definitely startling at first, but eventually helps to draw out the deeper flavors of the burger, so the sweetness of the barbecue sauce isn’t too overwhelming.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen
“Germany — This smokebeer, made with smoked malts, is unique to the town of Bamberg. It is very dark and the smoky aroma is immediately evident, but on the palate there is some maltiness. Give this wonderfully unique brew a try. Pairs excellently with sausages and meats.”
Starbucks Birthday Cake and Chocolate Cake Pops x Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
TW: “With desserts, stouts work really well because they’re really rich and usually have notes of chocolate or notes of coffee. With this one, it’s an oatmeal stout, so it’s not gonna be overpowering… For me, stouts can get too rich, too roasted because you have to roast the malt to get that dark color, but with this one, it’s perfect. Very well done. English-style stuff is known for being not as extreme as the Americanized-everything… We wanted to amplify the flavors of everything that came from the Old World over to the New World. But yeah, this is a really rich roasted beer, malty, but still sweet and not bitter. You can have bitter for contrast, but usually with dessert, you want the sweet, so you want to complement it.”
Verdict: Amazing coffee and vanilla flavors here, and a much recommended alternative to sucking down another too-sweet Frappuccino.
TW: “I think I like the chocolate one best, because that’s the flavor the malt has already. It should help a lot. It’s good, like fudge.”
Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
Malty, Chocolaty, Coffee, Smooth, Medium-body
“England — This style of stout, with the addition of a small amount of oats, died out around the first World War until Samuel Smith revived it in 1980. It is almost opaque, with an unusually silky texture and complex, medium-dry velvet palate. Vegan Society confirmed.”
Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack x Hangar 24 Orange Wheat
TW: “Wheat beer is usually unfiltered, so you’re going to see yeast still in the bottle, so it’s going to be hazy, cloudy. It’ll have a real pretty appearance. I mean, they always ask if you want orange juice with your breakfast combo. It’ll be like, ‘Sir, it’s 7:30 in the morning, why do you want beer? And why are you in the drive-thru?’ Yeah, that definitely threw me off when I saw the breakfast sandwich on there. I guess maybe if you’re out late, Jack in the Box is the place for breakfast all day, so you can get an after 5 o’clock breakfast sandwich. Yeah, that’s really orange-y. Even though Hef’s got a fuller body because it’s a wheat beer, it’s still a lighter style. The flavors aren’t extreme, you just get most of the wheat feel and the orange and coriander flavor.”
Verdict: The unequivocal “Breakfast of Champions,” this combination was by far the winner – and the ultimate alternative to boring, watered-down mimosas that you never knew you needed.
Hangar 24 Orange Wheat
Crisp, Fruity, Citrus, Light-bodied
“California — Pours a hazy light orange color with a creamy white head. Aromas of oranges on the nose amidst a wheat background. The body is thin, delivering slightly sweet flavors of refreshingly tart oranges and orange rinds. Won Gold in 2012 at LA IC Beer Competition.”
Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito Bowl x Anchor Steam Beer
TW: “Definitely haven’t had that. I heard it was a little spicy. So the rule with anything spicy is that hoppy beer is gonna make it worse. It’s gonna make it burn bad… I’ve had IPAs with jalapeno peppers and it hurt the whole way down. I love spicy food, I put hot sauce on everything, and I was dying… So you want something to quench it. I went with an Anchor Steam Beer. It’s a California Common, made with lager yeast but at ale temperatures. That’s what makes it kind of special. It’s real nice, got a nice bready feel to it and it’s more of a thirst quencher….”
Verdict: This beer cut the medium spiciness of the meat and salsa really quickly, though the flavors didn’t really complement or contrast in any specific way. Overall, it tasted a little bit like soap and I think I’d rather just have milk if I wanted to get the heat out.
Anchor Steam Beer
“California — Iconic Anchor Steam derives its unusual name from the 19th century when “steam” seems to have been a nickname for beer brewed on the West Coast under primitive conditions and without ice. This process produces a dark amber lager with lovely malty/hoppy aromas.”
Yoshinoya Beef Teriyaki Bowl x Chimay Premiere Red
TW: “This is a Trappist beer. Trappist beers, there’s only eight of them in the world. This is technically a Dubbel, their Belgian style: roasted, but not sweet. Usually with darker Belgian ales, there’s like a raisin-y sweetness or a canned sugar. With this one, it’s roasted, it’s dark, but it’s still smooth. You get a lot of Belgian yeast in it though, which gives it a lot of spice. Trappist means it’s made by monks and it can only be made at the monastery. It makes it a lot more expensive, but you can never go wrong with Trappist. Most people enjoy it even if they don’t like darker beer because they can appreciate the style and the yeast, the spiciness, a little clove. But that should pair nicely with some teriyaki. Teriyaki’s got a little bit of sweetness and this’ll kick it right back.”
Verdict: You get a lot more fruit than spice at first, but the spice comes out with a bite of the teriyaki and results in a nice balance. A bit too pricey for a weekday, after-work beer though. Just saying.
Chimay Premiere Red
Malty, Fruity, Estery, Chocolaty, Medium-bodied
“Belgium — 7% ABV. TRAPPIST ALE. Coppery in color, this beer gives off a light, fruity apricot aroma. The flavors perceived in the mouth confirm the fruity nuances noticed in the fragrance. The silky sensation to the tongue is made refreshing by a light touch of bitterness.”
Burger King Sweet Potato Fries x Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
TW: “Browns go really well with sweet potato fries. This specific one is Rogue Hazelnut. It’s a brown ale and they added hazelnut, which gives it a little bit of richness at the end, but nothing too crazy. It should complement the sweetness of the sweet potato fries… Since it’s dark, they roast the malt so it’s gonna have a lot of roasty character to it. Burnt, toasted. But the hazelnut is gonna bring a little sweetness, a little richness, which should pair very nice. Both of them [the fries and the beer] have sweetness on the end, but it doesn’t kick in until later. You add the beer, it definitely helps it, brings it out.”
Verdict: BK’s take on sweet potato fries can come off as rather bitter, but the beer helps smooth out the inconsistency and actually makes both taste significantly better.
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Balanced, Malty, Caramel, Toasty, Medium-body
“Oregon — GABF Gold Medal 2012. Dark brown in color with a hazelnut aroma, a rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish. This has a blend of Great Western 2-row Pale, Munich, Hugh Baird Brown, Crystal 80 and Crystal 135, Carastan, and Beeston Pale Chocolate malts.”
Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger x Green Flash Le Freak Ale
TW: “With this, it’s a hoppier beer. It’s a Belgian IPA. It’s American, so it’s gonna be very hoppy. We’re extremist and they like to jack up the IBUs [International Bitterness Units]. It’s a scale from 1 to 100. Your palate can’t really detect past 100, it’s just gonna taste bitter. With this one, they used Belgian yeast, so the same characteristics you got off of that Chamay, they put it in here, with the hop bitterness of an IPA. It might work, I don’t know, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. This on the nose right away, you’re gonna smell the hops, so the citrusy, pine, grassy, grapefruit. And this is the one that’s gonna linger on your tongue for a while.”
Verdict: Actually originally meant to pair with a hot dog, the Le Freak went fine with Wendy’s new summer burger, but nothing particularly noteworthy. I admit I’m not a fan of hoppy beer in general though, so the disconnect might just be on my end.
TW: “The yeast jumps out at it, the yeast and the bun match up nice. As soon as it hits your mouth, they grab each other. Plus I love hoppy beer. It made it a little bit sweeter too, because the pretzel adds the sweetness.”
Green Flash Le Freak Ale
“California — 9.2% ABV. GABF Golde Medal 2012. A convergence of an American Imperial IPA and a Belgian Trippel. A zesty brew with enticing American hop and Belgian yeast aromatics leading you to delicious malts and a complex layering of hop flavors that quench and refresh.”
Rubio’s Fish Taco x Orval Trappist Ale
TW: “Another Trappist beer. This style is a Belgian pale ale. So not pale as in an IPA but this is Old World. It’s not as hoppy, because they most just use hops, you know, ‘cause you have to. This one should have a nice pretty color to it as well, but still that same yeast and the same spiciness of the yeast and the smell. […] The yeast of Belgian beers is really, really unique. So if you pair that with that, it’s got a nice crispness to it, almost like, I don’t wanna say ‘sting,’ because that sounds bad, but it’s crisp, you can feel it on your tongue – a little prickly I guess, but it should pair really nicely with that fish.”
Verdict: Great beer and a great fast food fish taco, but a slightly underwhelming pairing. I would have preferred if it was a little more citrusy.
TW: “That’s real light, nothing crazy jumps out at you. It’s kind of consistent and nice, good flavor, not super fishy either. This adds a nice Belgian yeast and it’s perfect. It comes and goes quick, it’s not really long lasting. Real light, real easy. It adds a different spice, I guess you could say.”
Orval Trappist Ale
Balanced, Estery, Spicy, Earthy, Medium-bodied
“Belgium — 6.9% ABV. TRAPPIST ALE. Orval is brewed unfiltered by Catholic monks at a monastery founded in the 1100s in the pastoral Belgium countryside. Three different malts and two types of hops, fermented three times, impart a great character and complexity. Balanced.”