We’re not here to discuss what makes a great burger today. Let’s just enjoy the fact that so many amazing burger styles and toppings exist in this world. Which beers best pair with all those amazing combinations is another matter. And that’s where we come in, because a great burger deserves a great beer.
We compiled a list of some of our favorite ways to eat a burger (sorry Hawaiian Burger, you didn’t make the cut). And then started digging around our beer archives to find the perfect beer to wash down all that fat, cheese, salt, and pickle. There are few caveats here: These are great beers that work with burgers in various ways. Can you mix and match? Absolutely. Are there other breweries besides the ones we’ve called out? Of course. Look for these beer styles near you if you’re not near the actual breweries.
Overall, it’s about the flavors and textures and how they co-mingle and create a full experience. A burger and a beer is a classic combination. They go together like Han and Chewie or Troy and Abed or Dany and her dragons. It’s always a winning combo!
There’s a soft spot in our hearts for a classic, basic hamburger. The soft beefiness of a well-grilled patty accompanied by the crunch of lettuce, onion, pickle, and tomato is simplicity at its best. Add in the softness of a butter toasted bun and some decent hamburger sauce and you have the perfect amalgam of flavors and textures.
A great burger screams for a big, frothy milkshake to balance out the savory with sweet. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout hits the mark as a light and creamy beer that use bitter and sweet well. There’s a strong toffee and dark cherry taste lurking under the bitter roasted coffee creaminess, making this a perfect accompaniment for a classic burger.
Okay, take everything above and add some cheese. Has adding cheese ever been the wrong move? Classic American yellow cheese is the standard bearer to the great cheeseburger. You can amp that up a notch or two with a great sharp yellow Cheddar or even a nutty Edam. Then you’ve got yourself an extra layer of texture and flavor via cheesy goodness.
Hop Trip is Deschutes Brewery’s Bond Street Series pale ale. It’s fresh/wet hopped almost directly after the hops are harvested. This gives the beer an intense hop flavor that leans heavily into florals and grapefruit citrus. That citrus makes for a perfect counterpoint to the melty cheese of a great cheeseburger.
Take all the amazingness of a cheeseburger and add bacon — delicious, salty, umami, fatty, crispy bacon. Burger, cheese, and bacon are the holy trinity of food. The fat that the cheese and bacon adds to the simplicity of a great burger is a delightful indulgence that we all need every now and then. Blood pressure be damned.
You need a great tartness to cut through all that salt and fat. Hottenroth Berliner Weisse offers that respite. It’s a soft, tart, and funky sour beer that’s refreshing and, most importantly, light. The low ABV of 3.1 percent makes it easily drinkable so you can have one or two while you put away that filling sandwich.
THE EVERYTHING BURGER
Sometimes you just have to say ‘fuck it’ and live for today. That’s where the everything burger fits into life. Throw an egg on there. Throw on some ham. Throw on some onion rings. Fuck it, throw on some brisket and three kinds of cheese. This is a mess that takes time to eat and you’ll likely need a nap afterward.
You gotta go light. A tall boy of Rainier Beer (or Tecate, Hamms, PBR, etc.) is what you need with a burger that has everything but the kitchen sink on it. An easy pale lager will keep you hydrated and not fill up precious stomach space as you tackle a burger that’s likely bigger than your head.
MUSHROOM AND SWISS
A great burger doesn’t need everything on it. Don’t get us wrong, that’s fun every now and then. But sometimes one or two great toppings is all you need. Enter the umami funk and nutty cheesiness of a great mushroom and swiss burger.
Steam Train Porter from Snoqualmie Brewery is a fitting accompaniment for a fungus-forward burger. The porter has a nice dark roasted bitterness that gives way to a caramel sweetness and a crisp nuttiness that works with the swiss cheese. There’s also a slight earthiness under it all that compliments the umami of mushrooms.
BLUE CHEESE BURGER
Let’s add a little funk to the mix. A nice, crumbly, funky blue cheese adds a creamy and almost sour dimension to a great burger. Throw on some caramelized onions and you have yourself a classic burger that transcends the usual mildness of a yellow cheese.
Oude Gueuze Tilquin is the funky Gueuze that just feels right with a funky burger. The beer is a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics, which are matured in oak barrels. There’s an oak dimension at play that adds an almost white wine acidity that layers over a distinct straw and barnyard funk sourness. All of that pairs wonderfully with a great, stinky blue cheese and some sweet, sweated onions.
Down Texas way you’ll find a lot of great BBQ burgers. The addition of a chili spice and molasses sweet barbecue sauce on a flame-grilled burger patty alongside plenty of sharp cheddar, well-smoked bacon, and maybe some fried onions is a messy and wonderful prospect.
Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier is the crisp beer that a spicy and sweet messy burger like this needs. The mellow wheat beer leans into a spicy clove base with a distinct banana sweetness. It’s a refreshing and crisp beer with a tart maltiness that pairs well with this classic mess of a burger.
FAST FOOD BURGER
We know a fast food burger is a broad spectrum these days. It’s a long road from a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder to an In-N-Out Double Double Animal Style. Yet, they still kinda feel the same. It’s fast. It’s salty. It’s cheap. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
You need an elevated simple beer for a something as down and dirty as a Big Mac or Shake Shack Burger. STS Pils from Russian River Brewing hits all the sweet spots. It’s a familiar concept as a light lager (Czech Pilsner in this case). There’s a decent balance of malt sweetness with a bitter hop that doesn’t overplay either flavor. It’s thirst quenching — which makes it perfect for the over-saltiness of a fast food burger.
On the opposite end of the burger spectrum from Burger King, is the haute cuisine burger you’ll find at Michelin Star seeking restaurants. These are the mountaintop of what a great burger can be. The meat is mixed and cooked to soft and crispy perfection. The cheeses are sourced from dairies that care deeply about their craft. The buns are baked in house specifically for their burger. Everything is just right and they can be mind-blowingly good.
When reaching the heights of burger-dom you need an amazing beer. 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek is a fruit lambic that’s fermented with freshly picked cherries. The fruit adds a sour and sweet dimension to the tart beer that uses wild yeasts to sour up. Oude Kriek has a mild fruitiness that overlays the sour with a slight funk and almost buttery nature. It’s the mountaintop of great beers, making it perfect for a great burger.