A thriller in the chiller AND on the griller, beer's role at a BBQ is a brilliantly broad one. Not content with being a spectacularly flexible and flavoursome friend to flame-licked food, it's also an essential and ingenious ingredient that no serious tong-wielding, modern day meat-whisperer can do without.
With more than 50 classic styles and a cornucopia of tastes and aromas, beer mingles effortlessly with pretty much anything that's flipped off the grill. Hops give it the bitterness to slice through rich textures, malt the sweetness to parry charred and caramelised flavours while the bubbles scrub the palate clean.
Brace yourself below for some great BBQ and Beer Pairings.
Light Lagers: Easy, palate-cleansing and refreshing. Opt for a little bit of sweetness if you can.
Pale Ale: Blessed with hop bitterness, pale ale can slice through the succulence of burgers. They're refreshing; they're citrusy; a little bit dry and very drinkable. Try Little Creatures Pale Ale from Australia, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from California or, from Britain, Wild Hare Pale Ale brewed by Bath Ales.
Beer has a lot to contend with here. The gratifying squelch of succulent beef, the smoky bacon and the dripping cheese, the clean crunch of the salad and an array of random sauces and relishes.
Trappist Ales: If your sausage is high on herbs and stacked with spices, a chilled Trappist beer such as Orval, intricate and aromatic, is a great Belgian bet.
India Pale Ales: Spicy sausages, such as North African Merguez, call for something strong with high hop bitterness like Marston's Old Empire, an India Pale Ale from Burton-on-Trent, the spiritual home of British brewing.
British Bitter: For your classic British banger, there's no beating a traditional British bitter that balances light hop bitterness and juicy malt sweetness – Timothy Taylor Landlord, Brakspear Bitter, Adnams Bitter and Old Speckled Hen are all mighty fine and readily available examples.
These days, sausage makers are an adventurous bunch, dabbling with a dazzling array of herbs and spices and adding all manner of inventive ingredients into their soft, succulent cylinders of swine – apples, nettles, mushroom, black pepper, white pepper, garlic, sage, old boots, seeds, shopping trolleys, mixed herbs, pretty much anything.
Dark Lagers: Super smoky Rauchbiers from the German town of Bamberg, such as Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, would be the obvious choice for the ribs but they can be pretty heavy-handed. For a little less smoke but with enough sweetness to mirror a ribs' marinade or glaze, reach for a dark lager. Budvar Dark Lager, brewed in Czech Republic, has hints of chicory and spice and is delicious.
Porter/Stout: London Porter from either Meantime or Fullers are delightful dark drops while Titanic Stout, brewed in Stoke-on-Trent, also emits superb smoke signals.
If there's an expert griller in your midst then, chances are, they'll be smoking meat on the BBQ. Chefs are increasingly showboating with applewood, maplewood and hickory chips to add a special smoky slant. Similar smoky flavours can be discovered in beer, particularly beer brewed with dark malt or malt that's been smoked over oak or beech wood – the way all beer was once brewed.
Strong British Ales: Strong malt-driven ales boast both the bubbles and the fat-fighting bitterness – try Fuller's ESB, JW Lees Moonraker from Manchester or Old Tom, a lush oxblood-coloured ale swirled in chocolate, dark cherry and liquorice. Worthington White Shield, meanwhile, is a bottle-conditioned India Pale Ale with fat-fighting carbonation, hints of mango and marmalade and enough peppery hop astringency to joust with lamb's juiciness.
Bière-de-Garde: Herbal, hoppy and spicy, bière-de-garde brews from northern France or Saison beers from Belgium are "tres bon" with herb-encrusted lamb chops.
Wine often bleats when asked to deal with the mouth-coating fattiness of lamb but beer is all over it like a big woolly cardigan.
Belgian Ales: Medium-to-full bodied Belgian Abbey and Trappist beers such as Leffe Brune, Maredsous Brune and Westmalle Dubbel are ideal possessing a backbone of hop bitterness and substantial malty, caramel character.
Amber Lagers: Less muscular in strength and body, Vienna-style lager such as Brooklyn Lager from New York or Samuel Adams from Boston can also step up to the plate.
Steak. It's robust and it's meaty. Delicate drops needn't apply. Bigger beers are required.
Blonde Ales: The classic chicken drumstick pairs up perfectly with refreshing aromatic British blonde ales such as Deuchars IPA from Scotland, Hopback's Summer Lightning, Roaring Meg from the Springhead Brewery in Nottingham or Wainwright, a glorious golden gulp from Thwaites Brewery in Lancashire.
Belgian Wit Bieres: Adorned with coriander, herbs and a cacophony of citrus flavours, Belgian-style wheat beers such as Hoegaarden, Grolsch Weizen or Blue Moon hail a Caesar Salad and grilled chicken in style. Wheat beers are also great with chicken that's been marinated in lime and coriander.
Pilsners: Satay chicken sits superbly next to a heavily-hopped pilsner like Zatec while a hoppy pale ale, be it Tiger from Everards Brewery in Leicestershire or Old Hooky from Hook Norton, has enough bitter tang to tick chicken tikka's box.
Coconut beer! Jamaican jerk chicken, rubbed with a range of spicy seasoning, is great with Mongozo Coconut Beer, it mellows out the marinade in marvellous fashion.
Chicken is a more delicate, softer meat – a blank canvas on which other flavours, spices and sauces can be daubed. So the beer matching possibilities are clucking endless.
British Ales: Full-bodied bitters best served slightly chilled in a wine glass, have the bittersweet balance to both cut and complement duck's decadent texture. Brakspear Triple Strong Ale, triple-hopped and triple-fermented, springs to mind.
Belgian Trappist/Abbey-style ales: Trappist beers like Chimay Blue, Palm Speciale, Westmalle Dubbel or, the rather aptly named, Kwak amber ale brewed in Flanders.
Fruit Beer: Duck's most delicious act is with cherry beer. Duck and cherries is a classic pairing, the fruit's slight acidity slicing through the richness of the meat, and the beer is a superb, slightly sour substitute. Tart Belgian options include Oude Kriek Boon and Liefmans Cuvée-Brut while a choice cherry beer from Britain is Samuel Smith's.
Duck is fleshy, a bit fatty and full of flavour. So it's only strong and sweet beers that fit the bill.
European Lager: Pour a classic lager such as Grolsch or Peroni or something a little drier like Asahi.
Herb/Spiced Ale: If you're feeling daring, Morocco Ale, a strong and delicately spicy dark ale hailing from Harrogate, Yorkshire. Blandford Fly, a Badger beer brewed with ginger, is another fantastic, fiery friend to kebabs.
In addition to the meat, you can stick pretty much anything onto a skewer: garlic, shallots, peppers, onions, mushrooms, aubergine, herbs, seasonings... the list goes on. This rush of random flavours requires a palate-cleansing all-rounder.
Bière-de-garde: Salmon and tuna steaks are superb with Chalky's Bite, a Cornish interpretation of French bière-de-garde brewed in collaboration with chef Rick Stein.
Lager: A lush lager, be it Peroni from Italy or Cain's from Liverpool, finds favour with fleshier fish like Halibut or Hake.
Wheat beer: All that's needed for foil-wrapped, lightly grilled mackerel, spruced up with a squirt of lemon, is a delicate, Belgian-style wheat beer such as Blanche de Bruxelles or Fuller's Discovery, a 4.5% abv summer ale brewed with citrusy Liberty hops and a mix of wheat and malted barley.
Belgian Tripel: To accompany shrimp, lobster, garlic-buttered prawns or seared scallops, look no further than Duvel. Beneath the luxurious frothy white head of this classic Belgian ale lies a devilishly dry and fruity beer bursting with stunning clove and ripened pear flavours.
Stout/Porters/Dark Ales: Cooked over coals, oysters are an excellent and audacious addition to a BBQ and pair perfectly with porter and stout - Marston's Oyster Stout is an obvious and ideal option. Badger's Poachers Choice, brewed with a touch of liquorice and a dash of damson, is also awesome with oysters. Shuck it and see.
Grub from God's big bath tub goes swimmingly with all manner of beers so cast your net far and wide.
Beer Can Chicken is a wonderfully basic recipe. All you need is some beer. A can. And a chicken. If you really want to add a lot of extra flair and pizzazz to your BBQ you could also include a good spice rub. Go as basic as salt and pepper or else mix up something impressive. It's completely up to you.
As is your choice of beer. Some people are militant about this decision. You will see advice telling you stout is the only beer for Beer Can Chicken, while others will tell you any beer but stout. I don't want to get into that here. Personally I like a good, malty beer with lots of flavour.
There are only three ingredients for this recipe:
Tip 1: Before we get started, make sure that the can of beer fits inside the chicken before you get near a live fire.
Tip 2: Make sure that the BBQ is tall enough for a chicken to sit up in. You don't want to lower the lid on your grill and discover that the chicken doesn't fit.
Now, prepare the can. Make sure it's been sat quietly for a while – you don't want it fizzing all over the place. Cut the top off the can to maximise the flow of moisture from the beer to the bird. Almost any can opener can be used but be careful around sharp edges. Empty half the beer from the can and make good use of the brew. I'll leave that up to you. Next add ½ the cup of your spice rub to the can and give it a quick stir. Now the can is ready to roast!
Take the other half of your spice rub and apply it to the chicken. Skin won't let flavour reach the meat so you need to work your spice rub in, really rummage around under the skin as much as possible. Don't be shy, the chicken won't mind – just think what you're going to do with the can. Now the Beer Can Chicken is all set for your BBQ.
You will be grilling your Beer Can Chicken indirectly. This means that the fire will be to the side or around the chicken. I have mine set up on a grill with even heat on either side of where the chicken will be sitting so that I don't have to worry about turning the chicken. If you can put the gas or charcoal fire on two sides then you won't have to worry about turning the bird. If you are going to have the fire on one side you will need to rotate the chicken 180oC every 30 minutes while it cooks.
Place the beer can on the grill right where you want the bird to be.
You are going to get your hands dirty here but don't worry about it. Lift the chicken from the bottom with the legs towards you and slowly and gently sit the chicken over the can. Be kind here and remember less is more. A bit of butter on the can may ease any resistance. You might need to press it down a little bit, but you shouldn't have to force it.
Close the lid on your grill and, this bit is important, wash everything that did or could have touched that bird so that when the chicken is done and ready to come out there won't be any germs left behind.
Depending on how even your heat is you shouldn't have much to do now but wait for your chicken to cook. Time isn't important to chicken, temperature is. When this bird reaches an internal temperature of 80oC it is ready to come off the heat. Measure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh being careful not to touch the bone with the thermometer.
A 2.5kg bird should take two to three hours to cook and while you wait you can enjoy your BBQ with your friends and family.
Once the chicken has been removed from the grill let it rest for about ten minutes before carving.
I find that the can sometimes gets stuck inside the bird but typically there isn't much (if any) liquid left inside so lay the bird down and pull the can out with a pair of tongs – be careful as it may be a bit hot.
With the can out of the chicken, it is just like any other (just better tasting). Carve it up and marvel as the flavoursome meat falls off the bone.
If using charcoal make sure that the coals have begun to turn ash-grey with a 'ruddy' glow. Do not attempt to cook over 'flaming coals' or if the heat has begun to dissipate and the coals have lost their 'ruddy' tinge!
Ensure that there are three key grill heat areas – high, medium and warming. This can be achieved by building a greater depth of coals and heat at one end and less depth at the other.
If using charcoal you can add to the traditional smoky flavour by adding wet hard-wood chips or vine clippings to the coals.
Another great grill tip is to 'sear on high and grill on low' Simply 'sear' food quickly on both sides on a high heat to retain flavour and juices, then either grill on medium or low heat according to the food being grilled. Turn no more than once or twice per side. Always use a spatula or tongs, do not prod and never ever use a fork, especially on sausages, as this just increases the possibility of 'flare-ups!'
Remember 'Burnt is Bad!' Food should never be cooked on too high a heat or for too long , as this simply encourages it to burn on the outside and either 'dry out' or stay raw in the middle, creating a health hazard.
Steaks and burgers should be cooked to a medium setting; ideally they should not be well-done as this simply encourages the meat to dry out! Fish should never, ever be over cooked – the ideal with a meaty fish like tuna is to sear, then cook to a depth of approximately 1cm each side, then allow to slowly warm through, without losing the 'rare' centre. Poultry should not be overcooked as this makes it dry, but should be grilled until juices run clear. If unsure parboil then finish off on the grill.
To be doubly sure, you can always choose a 'tester' piece of chicken / beef / sausage to slice open to check the meat has been thoroughly cooked through before serving to guests.
To prevent food sticking, ensure that grill bars are kept clean and well-oiled. To get 'professional grill-lines' follow the same principle but use the hottest part of the grill to sear for a minimum of 2-3 mins per side. To increase impact of lines grip food with tongs and slide up-and-down grill bars without moving side to side. Turn and repeat.
If grilling fish preferably use foil or a fish tray and avoid turning too frequently.
The majority of food benefits from marinating and marinades and sauces help protect food from high temperatures on the grill whilst still allowing them to cook properly.
Basic preparation: Ensure that all food is refrigerated or frozen to the correct temperature before beginning preparation unless otherwise specified.
Keep raw food separate and preferably on separate chopping boards to avoid cross contamination. Do not mix meat, seafood and dairy, poultry and vegetables or any combination of these when preparing, keep apart until ready to grill.
For safety's sake, wipe surfaces with an antiseptic cleaner between different courses.
Do not under any circumstances mix raw and cooked meat and do not return cooked meat to the fridge until it has properly cooled.
Keep knives and sharp implements out of reach of children and pets.
Remember that the BBQ is hot, so site well aware from trees, fences, hedges garden umbrellas and awnings or anything else likely to combust.
Also keep children and pets well away from the grill and do not drink alcohol (BeerGenie edit - well not too much anyway!) whilst grilling. Bear in mind that the BBQ will remain hot for some time after you have finished cooking.
Obviously for many people alcohol is an enjoyable part of any BBQ occasion but make sure you have non-alcoholic or soft drink alternatives and please encourage your guests to drink responsibly.
BBQ'ed food should be grilled from the fridge and eaten as soon as cooked, do not leave grilled food lying around in the sun or next to warm surfaces and cover salads etc to guard against insects.
At the end of a BBQ make sure that all equipment is properly cleaned and stowed safely away including the grill which should be left to cool down completely before putting away. Make sure you clean the grill-bars thoroughly and ensure that all food residue is removed. Lightly oil bars before putting away.