Pairing Meat with Beer: A Zilker Beer Exclusive

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We got together with our friends at Zilker Brewing Company to explore one of the sacred bonds of the culinary world: great beer and great meat. Using a number of Zilker beers available year round as well as East Side Beer, their 2018 fall and winter seasonal release, we came up with a few magic matches between Zilker brews and Rosso & Flynn meat preparations.

The Basics

The basics of pairing beer and food are simple. Considering the flavor intensity of flavors in each is the basic guide for any pairing. Lighter beers match best with lighter tastes and textures, while heavier, hoppier-flavored beers work best with richer main dishes. More nuanced pairing decisions are made with subtler flavor notes in mind; careful consideration of carbonation and hop bitterness, for example, can be the difference between a basic pairing success and a multi-layered flavor experience.

Zilker Beers

We chose four Zilker beers to use as examples for a varied selection of pairing possibilities, from the light and brisk to the dense, stout varieties. Three are available year round, while the seasonal release, ESB, will be available at select Austin retailers starting Nov. 20, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. For today, our beers are:

  • East Side Beer (seasonal)

  • Parks & Rec Pale Ale

  • Marco IPA

  • Coffee Milk Stout

Beginning with the seasonal East Side Beer, let’s examine the thinking behind pairing possibilities.

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East Side Beer (Extra Special Bitter)

East Side Beer, in Zilker’s words, is a “Texan take on an English classic,” referring to a centuries-old English style called Extra Special Bitter. The focus for this style is overall balance; while the first notes present a controlled bitterness, a malty complexity soon fills in to create a versatile, balanced profile that makes ESB easy to drink and available for extensive pairing possibilities. To start out the night, enjoy an East Side Beer with a cheese board, allowing the smooth balance of the beer to support and meld with mild-flavored English cheeses and light accompanying bites.


Parks & Rec Pale Ale

Like the ESB, Parks & Rec Pale is centered around a crisp, perfectly balanced flavor profile, using four hop varieties for a citrusy blend. The fruity, tingly notes brighten spicy and acidic flavors in accompanying foods, especially lighter starting plates. For starters, the acid in vinegar-based salad dressings works a perfect counterpart to the light but flavor-filled Parks & Rec, as well as other light appetizers that won’t overpower or be overpowered by the beer. For a main course pairing, consider spicy poultry dishes, like chicken or turkey seasoned with a kick. The meat protein of poultry is light enough to welcome a new a flavor profile from the beer, but the bold spice of the dish will present its own elevating power in the overall flavor of the pair.


Coffee Milk Stout

Milk stouts, by definition, are brewed with lactose, a sugar found in milk, that isn’t fermented by beer yeast and therefore contributes a soft sweetness to the finished beer. Zilker’s Coffee Milk Stout is a proper milk stout brewed with coffee beans from Flat Track Coffee Roasters, which create a “savory profile with hints of cherry that pair perfectly with the beer’s creamy texture and burnt sugar notes.” Favoring maltiness and limiting bitterness and hoppiness, Coffee Milk Stout presents a more specialized pairing partner, leaning towards rich, beefy, full-bodied dishes (it also works great as a beef marinade). Stews work great as a bold highlight to the toasted flavors from the beer, as well as pushy cheese like blue cheese. Finally, the Coffee Milk Stout makes a bold and delicious companion to complex beef preparations, like – you guessed it – Texas barbecue.


Marco IPA

Marco IPA is a full-bodied India Pale Ale with heavy notes of tropical fruit and pine. At first bitter, then warmly hoppy, and finally boldly hoppy, the Marco won’t be pushed around, and works best with thick, rich flavors to balance the complex power of the beer. Zilker’s suggestions for pairings include non-spicy curry dishes and rich spiced desserts. During the holidays, that means grabbing an extra carrot cake and and a six pack of Marco IPA – a decadently boozy way to finish out the holiday feast.


Zilker Brewing is located at 1701 E 6th and features a house tap room and on-site food trailer (and also welcomes food from its neighborly gang of East Side eateries). In packs, Zilker’s products can be found at these local outlets:

  • East 1st Grocery

  • Whichcraft

  • Sunrise Mini-Mart

  • HEB

  • Central Market

  • Whole Foods

  • Spec’s