Many would argue that nothing beats a cold beer during the summer. Except, perhaps, a cold beer and an order of piping hot fish and chips on the boardwalk. Or a beer and a corn dog. Or a beer and funnel cake. After all, wine isn’t the only adult beverage that pairs well with food!
Like sand and the waves, beer and classic boardwalk food can be great on their own — but together they create an incredible experience that’s as much a part of summer in New Jersey as going down the shore.
New Jersey is home to more than 50 breweries and some of the best boardwalks in the United States. Celebrate them both by checking out a few of these iconic boardwalk foods and Garden State beer pairings during this year’s trip to the beach. As always, drink responsibly.
Fish & Chips
Whether you like your meal plain or with a liberal dose of salt and vinegar, look to the family of medium-bodied pale ales for a beer with plenty of flavor and crispness to cut through the salt and oil. Pale ales offer a balance of malt and hops that lift and amplify the flavor of the delicate fish (especially if you’re planning to add extra ketchup). For a fish and chips platter doused in salt and malt, try an IPA. Typically brewed with more hops than a standard pale ale, IPAs often have notes of spice or wood, and can present a powerful, but not overpowering, background against which the fries and fish can shine. Feeling adventurous? Try a refreshing cream ale. Its zippy acidity also makes a great partner for fish and chips.
Try It with: Rinn Duin’s Blackthorn 2nd Anniversary Ale, Forgotten Boardwalk’s 1916 Shore Shiver IPA, or Extra Special Bitter Ale or Cream Ale from Climax Brewing Company.
According to popular legend, German immigrants were the first on these shores to cover sausage with batter, supposedly to make their sausages easier to sell. The tactic worked. The corn dog – a layer of crispy, deep-fried fluffiness that gives way to a savory hot dog or sausage on a stick – became an American staple. It is an ideal companion for lager-style beers, such as Pilsners, and rye-flavored beers. In fact, many corn dogs are made with a beer batter, which can add an extra savory note to any brew with strong notes of grain.
Try It with: Village Idiot Brewing’s Rich’s Revolutionary Rye, Cape May Brewing Company’s Mooncusser Pilsner, Beach Haus’s Classic American Pilsner, or Departed Soles Brewing Company’s Light Rail Ale American Pale Ale
Tomato Pie and Pizza
Whether you are partial to Trenton-style tomato pies or classic pizza styles, the vegetables are key to beer pairing decisions. Tomatoes are at their peak in summer, and freshly made tomato-based sauces are at their sweetest. Fruit beers and wheat beers are great for pizza, as they feature complementary flavors, like spice or dark berries. If you’re adding peppers, onions, or eggplant to your slice, choose a medium-full bodied beer with less hoppiness that will play up the natural sweetness of the vegetables without competing with the crust for the attention of your palate.
Try It with: Cape May Brewery‘s Misty Dawn Saison, Flying Fish‘s Exit 4 American Trippel, or Jersey Girl Brewing Company’s American Wheat Ale
What’s a trip to the boardwalk without a sweet and crunchy funnel cake? Despite common belief, it’s not impossible to pair beer with dessert, as long as you follow the basic rule of sweetness. Just as with wine pairings, relative sweetness is the key to finding a great sudsy partner for this boardwalk classic. Choose a beer that’s about as sweet as the funnel cake, or super fruity to complement its flavor. The natural fizziness of beer will play up the fun texture of the fried dough.
Try It with: Forgotten Boardwalk’s Funnel Cake Ale, Jersey Girl’s Blood Orange Ale or Porter #2 Coffee and Chocolate Porter, or Cape May Brewing Company’s The Bog: Cranberry Shandy or Summer Catch Witbier
About the author: Michele Thomas is professionally curious; she likes to learn stuff. A certified sommelier with 15 years of experience writing about food, wine, education and the arts, she chronicles her wine escapades as the Bed–Stuy Sommelier (@BedStuySomm) on Instagram and Twitter.