When I think about what I want with a salad, I typically go for something on the lighter end of the beer spectrum (not to be confused with "light beers"). Save the stouts and double IPAs for another day, and stick with beers that have crisp, citrusy, and fruity flavors. These beers will enhance, rather than swamp, the lighter flavors of a big dinner salad.
To wit, these are the beer styles and a few specific bottles that I'll be sipping alongside my salads:
• Saisons: My current favorite beer style. Saisons tend to have soft fruit flavors and a fizzy mouthfeel that leaves you feeling refreshed after each sip. Beers to Try: Saison Rue from The Bruery and Bam Bière from Jolly Pumpkin
• Fruit Lambics: These will have stronger fruit flavors than a saison, almost like juice in beer form. It can be fun to pair a specific fruit lambic with the fruit in your salad. Beers to Try: Lindemans Pêche (Peach) Lambic and Cantillon Kriek (Cherry) Lambic
• Summer Ales: Almost every brewery has their own signature summer ale. Typically, these beers are brewed with some amount of wheat for a soft foamy mouthfeel and have lots of bright citrusy flavors. Beers to Try: Sam Adam's Summer Ale and Oberon Ale from Bells Brewery
• Hefeweizens: These were the original summer ale! Brewed with almost 50% wheat (or more), hefeweizens are decidedly creamy in texture. A special yeast gives them a tart flavor with hints of banana and clove. Beers to Try: Paulaner Hefeweissbier and Dancing Man Wheat from New Glarus Brewing Co.
• American Amber Ales: And sometimes you just can't go wrong with a basic, middle-of-the-road amber ale. These can range from super hoppy to super malty, and for salads, I try to find those that fall in the middle. Beers to Try: Full Sail Amber Ale from Full Sail Brewery and Copperhook from Redhook Ale Brewery
What will you be drinking with your salads this summer?
Related: The Real Truth About Skunked Beer