A garnish on top of your beer may seem unnecessary, but hear us out. A zesty topper, flavourful dunker or spicy rimmer can really bring those suds to life, adding complexity and dialling up the fun of discovering new brews.
Whether you’re looking to complement, enhance or echo the natural flavour notes of your beer, garnishes will help unlock all the interesting little nuances there are to discover. Here are 10 we love.
- Fresh veggies
A vegetable garnish — such as a cucumber or carrot ribbon lining the glass, a spiralized German beer radish (or any sort of thinly sliced radish) or a little skewer of cherry tomatoes — adds a hit of juicy freshness and a texturally pleasing crunch.
Best brews: Crisp, clean, not-too-bitter beers won’t overwhelm the subtle flavours of these garnishes. Try pilsners, pale lagers, cream ales, pale wheat beers (hefeweizen), blonde ales and Belgian wheat beers.
How-to: To make a cucumber or carrot ribbon, place the vegetable on a cutting board and, using a peeler, peel lengthwise into wide ribbons. Alternatively, use a mandoline — just be sure to choose thick vegetables and use the hand guard to protect your fingers.
- Pickled veggies
Cocktail onions, French cornichons, Italian giardiniera and pickled green beans are all fun options to stick on a little skewer to perch on top of your glass.
Best brews: Bold India pale ales (IPAs) will easily stand up to these assertive salty-sour choices.
How-to: To make a pickle skewer, use a skewer that’s long enough to perch over the rim of the glass. (Tip: Flat or double skewers are extra secure.) Spear all your faves and lay over your brew.
- Crispy Bacon
Is there anything bacon doesn’t make better? Salty and smoky, it’s a sizzling complement to refreshing, crisp brews.
Best brews: Crisp, hoppy, bitter beers, such as IPAs, help cut the richness of the meat.
How-to: To make a bacon twist, hold opposite ends of each raw strip and twist tightly. Arrange on a parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet and bake in 350°F oven for 40 minutes, turning once, until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Lay across the rim of the glass.
- Fresh or frozen berries
Berries are wonderful with any fruity beverage you like — no surprise there. And though they’re not technically in the same category, fresh cherries add a similar juicy sweetness.
Best brews: Fruit beers and juicy seltzers (especially those with berry notes) are the ideal partners here.
How-to: Float a few directly in your glass or make a skewer to sit overtop. Or whiz them up into a tasty adults-only treat: our Watermelon, Strawberry & Belgian Ale Ice Pops.
- Sliced stone fruits
In Ontario, peach season is an annual celebration. Raise a glass to it and put those juicy slices to work as a garnish. Nectarines and apricots are delicious choices, too.
Best brews: Stone fruits echo the natural fruity notes of wheat or fruit beer.
How-to: Pick up local, ripe, in-season fruits for the best flavour. Pit and cut into wedges, then cut a slice crosswise in the centre, almost but not all the way through. Rest over the rim of the glass.
- Preserved fruit
Cocktail or maraschino cherries are a must-have drink garnish. Dried fruits add subtle sweetness to your brew, and you’re left with a plump, beer-soaked fruit snack at the bottom of the glass.
Best brews: Try cherries with a chocolaty stout. Or use them to amp up fruity beers and seltzers, such as ones with cherry or berry flavours.
How-to: Skewer cocktail or maraschino cherries and lay them across the rim of the glass. Or drop dried apricots or dried sliced mango straight into your brew, and let them plump up as you sip.
A sweet or savoury coating on the rim of your glass adds a pop of flavour to each sip.
Best brews: Pair sweet spice rimmers, such as cinnamon sugar or brown sugar–pumpkin spice, with toasty stout, honey brown lager, or spiced or pumpkin ale. A cocoa powder rimmer and a touch of grated dark chocolate floating on top bring out the chocolaty, roasty flavours of both stouts and porters.
You can match savoury rimmers with all sorts of brews — sriracha-lime with IPA, coarse salt and lime juice with a bulldog margarita, and chili powder or Tajín seasoning with a Michelada.
How-to: Pour a little bit of water or another liquid, such as citrus juice, onto a small plate. Dip the rim of the glass into the liquid, then into a bowl of the dry spice mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes before pouring in beer.
- Citrus twists, wheels and wedges
Mild-tasting beer is best friends with citrus, especially when it comes in fun shapes.
Best brews: Lemon or grapefruit brings out the citrusy notes in radlers, Mexican lagers love fresh limes, and mellow Belgian wheat beers just aren’t the same without an orange slice.
How-to: For citrus wedges, trim off the top and bottom of the fruit to make cutting easier and to get rid of the thick pith. For the juiciest squeeze, cut off the pointed edge of the wedge to expose more of the fruit.
To make a citrus twist, use a channel cutter (it’s the larger hole in that bar zester tool living in your gadget drawer) or paring knife to cut a long piece of rind (minus the white pith). Gently pinch the twist with your fingers before adding to your beer to release the volatile oils. You can also coil the strip around a wooden spoon handle for a few minutes to create a spiral.
The rule for cheese is simple: Mild goes with mild, and strong goes with strong.
Best brews: A cherry tomato, basil leaf and mini bocconcini make the perfect little caprese skewer for topping a crisp pilsner or light lager. Mild bloomy-rind cheeses, such as Edam, young Gouda and buttery Havarti, love any gently flavoured brew. And a pick of cubed five-year-old cheddar, aged Gruyère or blue cheese — or a goat cheese–stuffed olive — can stand up to strong, malty ale or deep, dark stout.
How-to: Jab a skewer or long cocktail pick and through whatever cheese you like. Set on the rim of the glass and serve.
Whether it’s a simple sprig garnish or an ingredient in a beer cocktail, your favourite herb can be as nice to drink as it is to eat.
Best brews: Mint, dill and cilantro all go well with easygoing, hoppy beers, like laid-back IPAs.
How-to: Make a beer mojito by muddling fresh mint, sugar and lime juice in the bottom of a glass and topping up with IPA. Add a handful of ice for one of the most refreshing drinks of the summer.