As most of my readers know, I enjoy BBQ almost as much as I enjoy beer. Certainly if you follow me on Instagram and kept track, pictures of BBQ would almost be neck and neck with pictures of beer — and many times they are featured in the same photo. They just go together so beautifully that it’s hard for me to separate them now — like some kind of Pavlovian response. Years ago when I made the switch to grilling with just charcoal on my Primo, I discovered that the time it took for the charcoal to get to temperature was almost exactly one tallboy of beer. You have no idea how many times I used that little fact to tip the scale and bring folks over to grilling with charcoal. I have a good friend who told me that having a beer while he waited for his grill to come up to temperature forced him to change mental gears and relax — there was nothing to do but enjoy the beer and wait. This may be a small thing but in this frenetic world how often are you forced to stop and take stock. BBQ and Beer might just be the suburban solution to better mental health, but I digress, this isn’t an article trying to sell charcoal grills (though I know a guy). What I wanted to write about today is the many intersection opportunities of BBQ and beer instead of just putting a can in your left hand and the tongs in your right.
Beer Marinade — Contrary to popular belief— beer (or wine) doesn’t tenderize meat. What they can do is add some amazing flavour to it by penetrating ever so slightly into the surface. Beer may help break down some of the other components in the marinade and help them shine but your best friend is always salt when it comes to making things tasty and tender. When I marinade with beer I will usually only let it soak for 1-2 hours and usually only for beef. I pick something big, bold and dark like an imperial stout or porter that will help accentuate the meaty beef flavours. For most other meats I wouldn’t go to the fuss and muss of it, to be honest. With pork I might make a beer baste that highlights some of the malty flavours and for chicken, have it perch on a beer can, which looks cool but doesn’t really do much at the end of the day. I save most of my beer for making wonderful sauces and for drinking.
Sauces — This is one of my favourite (and easiest) ways to incorporate beer into the menu without having to think too much. You can use almost any beer to make a sauce but I would recommend the following: lagers for chicken and pork to keep the flavours lighter and more delicate and ales for beef which can work around a ton of different flavours. I would avoid using IPAs as they can come out bitter which makes them hard to balance. If you find your sauce tastes too bitter don’t hit it with more sugar — give it a pinch of salt. A basic sauce is a tallboy of beer, 2 cups of ketchup, 1⁄4 cup of brown sugar, 1⁄4 cup of white vinegar, two dashes of Worchester sauce and then a teaspoon of mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder. Play with how much cayenne heat you like and bring it to a boil on your grill and then let it simmer until you get to that lovely saucy thickness. You have to keep stirring it or you will burn it but other than that you are all set. Experiment at will!