What Kind of Beer Do You Put in Corned Beef? A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Brew

Corned beef and beer are a match made in heaven. The malty, yeasty flavors of beer beautifully complement the salty, briny flavors of corned beef. But with so many beer styles out there, it can be tricky to choose the right brew to cook with or pair with your corned beef.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about picking the perfect beer for your corned beef, from stouts to lagers and everything in between!

How Different Beer Styles Pair with Corned Beef

The most important factor in choosing a beer for corned beef is understanding how the flavors of different beer styles interact with the salty, fatty meat.


  • Pale ales – The citrusy hops help cut through the richness. Moderate maltiness adds flavor without overpowering.

  • Amber/red ales – Slightly sweet, toasted malt notes pair well with corned beef’s savoriness. Examples: Killian’s Irish Red, Newcastle Brown Ale.

  • Porters – Roasty and chocolate flavors add complexity. Porter’s hearty maltiness stands up to the meat.

  • Stouts – From dry Irish to imperial, stouts add bold roasted coffee/chocolate notes. Great for braising.


  • Pilsners – Crisp, delicate maltiness balances the rich meat without overwhelming it.

  • Bocks – Sweet, toasted maltiness enhances corned beef’s richness.

  • Dunkel lagers – Malty sweetness contrasts nicely with salty flavors.

  • Oktoberfest/Märzen – Biscuity malt pairs well with the hearty meat.

Best Beer Styles for Cooking Corned Beef

When it comes to infusing flavor into corned beef while it braises or simmers, these fuller-bodied beer styles make excellent choices:

  • Stouts – The roasted coffee and chocolate flavors impart delicious complexity. Guinness is a popular choice.

  • Porters – Like stouts, porters contribute robust maltiness and caramel/chocolate notes.

  • Brown ales – The nutty, toffee-like malt flavors add sweetness to balance the brine.

  • Amber/red ales – The light caramel and biscuit flavors enrich the dish without overpowering it.

  • Dunkel lagers – The malty sweetness bathes the meat in flavor.

Go for a minimum ABV of 5% or higher so the beer can properly tenderize and infuse the meat as it braises. The bold flavors of these beers nicely complement the strong seasoning of corned beef.

Best Beer Styles for Drinking with Corned Beef

When it comes to drinking beer alongside your finished corned beef, you want beers that will refresh your palate between bites without overpowering the flavors. Crisp, easy-drinking styles are best:

  • Pilsners – Light maltiness lets the meat shine while refreshing the palate.

  • Pale ales – Moderate hoppiness cuts through fat while complementing spices.

  • Kölsch – Soft maltiness pairs nicely without heavy alcohol.

  • Blonde ales – Crisp and fruity notes cleanse the palate.

  • Witbier – Tart and lightly spiced with hints of orange/coriander.

The subtle flavors of these lighter beers balance with corned beef instead of competing. Their crisp drinkability allows the rich meat flavor to take center stage.

Top Beer Recommendations for Corned Beef

Now let’s get into some specific beer recommendations that are delicious with corned beef:

For Cooking:

  • Guinness Draught Stout
  • Murphy’s Irish Stout
  • Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
  • Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
  • Brooklyn Brown Ale
  • Bell’s Amber Ale
  • Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel

For Drinking:

  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Weihenstephaner Original Lager
  • Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
  • Founders All Day IPA
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Victory Summer Love Ale
  • Hitachino Nest White Ale

Tips for Cooking with Beer

To get the most flavor and tenderizing effect when cooking corned beef in beer:

  • Use enough beer to cover/submerge the meat – At least 12 oz for 3 lbs. of meat.

  • Bring beer to a simmer before adding meat. This prevents boiling over and evaporates some alcohol.

  • Add aromatics like garlic, onions, herbs for extra dimension.

  • Cook low and slow – Simmering or braising gently infuses more flavor.

  • Make it a party! Crack open a cold one to enjoy alongside your finished dish!

Pairing Beer and Corned Beef Step-by-Step

Follow these simple steps to create a perfectly paired corned beef and beer dinner:

1. Choose your beer – Pick a flavorful, malty style like stout or porter for braising, or a light, crisp lager or pale ale for drinking.

2. Add beer to your cooking liquid – For a 3 lb. corned beef, use at least 12 oz. beer. Bring to a simmer before adding meat.

3. Cook the corned beef – Braise or simmer until fork tender, about 2-3 hours.

4. Rest the meat – Allow the corned beef to rest 15 minutes before slicing to redistribute juices.

5. Slice against the grain – Cutting thinly across the grain makes corned beef meltingly tender.

6. Crack open a cold one! – Grab a pint of your chosen drinking beer and enjoy it alongside your finished corned beef. Sláinte!

Alternative Non-Alcoholic Pairings

For those abstaining from alcohol, these beverages make tasty pairings with corned beef:

  • Root beer – The gentle spice and vanilla complements corned beef well.

  • Ginger beer – The zip of ginger balances the meat’s richness.

  • Iced tea – Brisk tannins cut through fat, letting flavors shine.

  • Cola – Timeless pairing! The bubbly sweetness balances saltiness.

  • Cranberry juice – Tart brightness offsets the heaviness.

  • Apple cider – Sweetness enhances the savory flavors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of beer is best for cooking corned beef?

For braising or simmering, full-flavored beers like stouts, porters, brown ales and amber/red ales work best. Their rich maltiness tenderizes the meat and provides balanced sweetness.

What beer goes best with corned beef and cabbage?

Pilsners, pale ales, and blonde/wheat beers pair nicely with the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. Their light, crisp drinkability contrasts the rich dish.

Is Guinness good for cooking corned beef?

Yes! Guinness’ creamy mouthfeel, subtle bitterness, and notes of coffee and chocolate complement corned beef wonderfully. The bold stout adds great depth of flavor.

Can you use light beer for cooking corned beef?

It’s best to avoid light beer when braising corned beef. Light beer won’t properly tenderize the meat or provide enough rich flavor. Go for a minimum 5% ABV beer.

What wine pairs well with corned beef?

Bold Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, or Malbec pair nicely with corned beef. Light-bodied Pinot Noir or Beaujolais are also good options. Avoid oaky Chardonnay which overwhelms the corned beef.

The Perfect Pairing

There’s no better match than malty, robust beer and hearty corned beef. With so many great beer styles and brews to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect combination of flavors your tastebuds will love. So grab your kettle and your favorite pint, and cheers to delicious corned beef!

Corned Beef and Cabbage w/ Beer in the Crock Pot easy recipe


What is the best beer for corned beef?

Ale: Red ales (something like Smithwicks; Killian’s is actually a stateside invention) are malty and mildly sweet — a good pair for corned beef or shepherd’s pie (or, frankly, a full Irish breakfast, but we won’t encourage that).

Why add beer when cooking corned beef?

Why? Because corned beef comes from brisket, a tough cut of meat. You need its connective tissue to break down so you can have tender results. Some like to braise their corned beef in an all-water liquid, with various spices and salt; others add beer to the mix to further tenderize the meat.

What can I substitute for beer in corned beef?

Two cups of water (plus a 12-ounce beer) should be enough liquid to cook a 3-pound corned beef brisket. Opt for a dark Irish stout, such as Guinness, for the richest flavor. If you’d prefer not to use alcohol in this recipe, try substituting with beef broth or apple cider (or a mixture of both).

What makes corned beef taste better?

Corned beef is a delicious and popular dish that can be made even more flavorful by adding simple ingredients. Baking is a great way to make it, and adding ingredients like mustard and brown sugar can help to enhance corn beef beyond its already delicious taste.

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