This BBQ-Inspired Beer Benefits Service Industry Workers

When Aaron Franklin tells you what to drink with Texas barbecue, you listen

October 16, 2020 8:24 am
karbach horseshoe pilsner
Karbach's Horseshoe Pilsner benefits the Southern Smoke Foundation and service industry workers.
Chris Anderson

We’ve all had to make some adjustments and cancel some plans as a result of the pandemic this year, and those who work in the restaurant or craft beer industries have been absolutely devastated by the quarantine. So when the beer that James Beard award-winning chefs Chris Shepherd and Aaron Franklin collaborated on with Houston-based Karbach Brewing Company for Franklin’s annual Hot Luck food and live music festival no longer had a place to be showcased after the event was scrapped due to COVID-19, the solution was clear: press on, and use it as an opportunity to raise money for service industry workers.

The result is the Horseshoe Pilsner, a light-bodied German-style pilsner that hit shelves last week and benefits Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Foundation, a crisis relief organization for people in the food and drink industry. And because it was brewed initially for Hot Luck with Franklin — owner of Austin’s beloved Franklin Barbecue and one of the most influential pitmasters in the country — it was designed specifically to be paired with Texas barbecue as a palate cleanser.

“The way I try to cook Central Texas Barbecue is with a focus on good ingredients, clean flavors and attention to detail … turns out, those things also make great beer! And it just so happens that the beer I reach for on a summer afternoon is a clean, crispy pilsner,” Franklin said in a statement. “Casually crossing paths with the Karbach fellas at backyard barbecues, at rock shows and at Hot Luck laid the groundwork for Horseshoe Pilsner. Something that’s sessionable, refreshing and complements the way we like to eat … I think we have a winner!”

horsehoe pilsner
Chris Anderson

So just how well does the Horseshoe Pilsner actually complement a big plate of barbecue? Karbach sent over a brisket from Franklin’s along with review samples of the beer, so I can personally attest that the beer-and-barbecue combo is, in fact, a perfect match. (Who knew, right?) On one hand, it’s a no-brainer; of course you’re going to want something light and crisp to cut through the heaviness of the meat and whatever starchy sides you’ve helped yourself to. But the Horseshoe Pilsner does seem carefully brewed with barbecue in mind.

It’s brewed with 2 Row, Vienna and Munich malts that give it its slight maltiness (hopheads should probably look elsewhere for their beloved bitterness and haze) as well as Hallertauer-Mittelfreuh, Saphir, and Tettnag hops. It’s smooth and refreshing, and there’s a faint smokiness on the nose and on the finish that gets amplified when you pair it with meat as it’s intended to be. But the beauty of this beer is that while it certainly would be great to pair it with big ol’ plate of Texas barbecue, you don’t necessarily need a brisket of your own to enjoy it. At 4.5% ABV, it’s easy to throw back a couple while you’re waiting for whatever you happen to have on your grill to cook.

This is a no-frills beer — a classic example of the style — meant to play sidekick to a big, indulgent meal and help you cope with the meat sweats. It’s not fancy (as one reviewer recently wrote on Untappd, it’s “beer-flavored”), but that’s exactly why it works so well. It’s a solid, subtle beer that allows whatever you’re eating with it to be the star of the show.

If you want to try the Horseshoe Pilsner for yourself, with or without barbecue, it’s currently available in six-packs at grocery stores and liquor stores across Texas, as well as on draft at select restaurants, bars and pubs in the state.


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