Beer and Cheesesteak Pairing

Think Beer…Drink Beer colum­nist Tim Pat­ton ex­plores the best brews to pair with Philly’s fa­vor­ite sand­wich.

One of the most glar­ing over­sights in the Philly bar scene is the com­plete neg­lect of the city’s sig­na­ture sand­wich - the cheesesteak. 

There are so many bars with so many great bur­gers that I can’t even keep up. Far too of­ten though, it’s really tough to get a cheesteak at a bar. I don’t un­der­stand why this is the case.

I really hope some en­ter­pris­ing beer bar own­er de­cides to step up and of­fer Philly’s fa­vor­ite sand­wich paired with the per­fect loc­al brew. Un­til that hap­pens, you’ll just have to do what I do and bring your own beer. 

So, if you’re will­ing to try a little “BY­OB” with your cheesesteak – or should that be “BYOCS” with your beer? -  the only ques­tion left is what beer goes best with a cheesesteak?

In re­search­ing this art­icle, I sampled a dozen dif­fer­ent brews – and ate a few cheesesteaks - as I sought to an­swer that ques­tion. 

Sur­pris­ingly, the fla­vors of a cheesesteak proved to be more com­plex and subtle than I as­sumed, and much harder to pair with beer than, say, a bur­ger.

First, I tried the Vic­tory Brew­ing Com­pany’s Prima Pils, a loc­al fa­vor­ite and a good ex­ample of the pils­ner style. 

Light without be­ing too del­ic­ate,t his pils­ner also went down easy, and paired well with the heavy sand­wich.

My next beer, the Bear Re­pub­lic Brew­ery’s Hop Rod Rye, didn’t fare as well.

This beer has a ton of hop bit­ter­ness and not much hop fla­vor. As a palette cleanser it was per­fect, but it over­whelmed the fla­vors of the cheesesteak.  I would re­com­mend hav­ing one after your meal rather than with it.

Stone Brew­ery’s IPA is less bit­ter than the Bear Re­pub­lic. The beer smells and tastes strongly of cit­rusy hops, which la­m­ost over­whelms the cheesesteak. 

If you take your steaks with whiz - which is sweeter than deli cheese - this would be a good choice.

I wish I could say the same about Dog­fish Head 90 Minute IPA. After hav­ing the pre­vi­ous two beers, I real­ized this IPA isn’t nearly as hoppy as I thought. It is more of a malty beer, and as I learned the hard way malt sweet­ness and cheesesteaks are not a good match.

The Fly­ing Fish Exit 4 Trip­pel has a fruity and bubblegum-like aroma. It’s a bit more bit­ter than a Bel­gian tripel, which helped it match well with the steak. 

I tried a few oth­er malty beers, like the Schneider Aventinus and Unib­roue Trois Pis­toles.

Be­fore I star­ted, I thought a strong malt fla­vor would work well with the steak fla­vors, but in­stead it just clashed with the cheese. 

I also had the same prob­lem pair­ing stouts and port­ers. I think there is a stout out there that would marry well with a cheesesteak, but I haven’t found it yet. 

The Guin­ness For­eign Ex­tra Stout and Duck Rab­bit Port­er are not only too malty, but the slight sour­ness in them clashed worse than the hoppy beers.

Next, I moved on to some light­er, drier beers, think­ing their crisp fin­ish would be the per­fect way to wash down a cheesesteak. 

Un­for­tu­nately, the spicy fla­vor and bread-like aroma of the Sais­on Dupont did not work with the steak at all. 

The same can be said of the Green Flash Ray­on Vert. I felt that the wild fer­ment­a­tion fla­vors were not en­joy­able with the cheesesteak.

Fi­nally, I came to the oddball: the Schlen­kerla Rauch­bi­er Ur­bock. If you’ve nev­er tried it, trust me when I say the smoki­ness comes through in the beer.  It was amaz­ing with the sand­wich.

The smoked malt per­fectly com­ple­men­ted the steak, but it did not mask the fla­vors of the cheese either. I’d say that if you’re grabbing some cheesesteaks to go and you need something to en­joy with them, then a pils­ner like the Vic­tory should be your go-to beer. 

When you want to try something dif­fer­ent, try a smoked beer., but avoid any beers that are very hoppy or with strong malt or yeast fla­vors.

Maybe you’ve found some oth­er beers that pair well with a cheesesteak. Feel free to con­tact me with your fa­vor­ites. I’d love to learn about any good beers I may have missed.

Tim Pat­ton is a Fishtown res­id­ent and the Brew­mas­ter at St. Ben­jamin Brew­ing Com­pany, a brew­ery open­ing in Kens­ing­ton this sum­mer. As a skilled brew­er, he’s cer­tainly par­tial to his own brew, but en­thu­si­ast­ic about all that the Philly beer scene has to of­fer. Got beer or brew­ing news he should be clued in on?  Email him at brew­mas­ter@stben­jamin­brew­

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