For those of you living in a climate where it doesn’t rain 363 days a year (around here the other two days are overcast day and hail day), spring has probably been around for a while. Even here, a few valiant cherry trees have bloomed a few blooms, and the odd well-tended daffodil or two has blossomed. In celebration of this season, yesterday I busted the ol’ Weber out of storage and got him all cleaned up and ready for the first grill session of the year. As we mentioned in the earlier barbecue conundrum, grilling is an entirely different animal. Grilling (or cooking out, or whatever they call it where you live) is the art of cooking stuff quickly over high heat, generally over a charcoal or gas flame. It could probably go without saying that this should be done outside, but just to avoid any legal issues (and because Aleheads aren’t necessarily given to common sense): Please grill outside so you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning and/or burn down your domicile.
When I have folks over for a grill session I generally stock a cooler with a few different beers so as to satisfy all comers. I can always use new ideas as to what should go in that cooler though, so I’m putting it to the Aleheads: What beers are the best to have around while you’re grilling?
Answers including one or more beers are acceptable, but let’s try to limit it to no more than three or so if possible. We’d love to hear from the peanut gallery in the comments section on this one as well!
Considering how many of these damn Conundra revolve around beer and food pairings, I’m surprised that Beerford doesn’t weigh like 450 pounds. Actually, I haven’t seen him in awhile so it’s possible he’s ballooned to Brando-like proportions. We’ve got our college reunion coming up in a few months and I sincerely hope we need a forklift just to get him into the class tent…
This Conundrum is maddeningly open-ended. The easy answer is that any good beer is perfectly acceptable while grilling. This isn’t about pairing a style of beer with certain food like steak or barbecued pork…this is about pairing beer with an activity. In other words, it’s like asking what color shirt you should wear when you’re mowing your lawn (Answer: Blue).
In order to answer this seemingly limitless query, I’ve decided to place a number of crippling restrictions on my response.
1. The beer must be canned. It just feels more appropriate when grilling. Sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with sipping a glass of beer at the grill or drinking straight from the bottle, but grilling is an activity meant to be done in a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Even if you’re searing sesame-crusted tuna steaks, grilling is the most casual, blue collar method of cookery (short of hot plating, of course). Any type of cooking that involves standing around the backyard (a section of the McHops Monastery mostly filled with swingsets, rocking chairs, and dog poop), is clearly one that calls for the most humble of beer containers…the aluminum can.
2. The beer must be readily available in Alabama. I mean, I could throw out our “go-to” Conundra response and say Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale or the thoroughly awesome Surly Furious. But truth be told, I’m not driving to Atlanta to pick up grillin’ beer. I’m running to Publix and grabbing a sixer.
3. Refreshment is the name of the game. More than any other Alehead, I’m the guy who thinks nothing of sitting outside in sweltering summer heat and drinking a goblet of Russian Imperial Stout. But when you add open flames to the mix, even I have my limitations. I’m not encouraging the consumption of light beer (god, no), but I am limiting myself to those beers on the “lighter” end of the spectrum (Pale Ales, IPAs, Pilsners, Blondes, etc.).
With those three restrictions in mind, my options are thoroughly limited…but that’s OK. There are still three great options available to me when my Weber is cranked up and the propane is flowing:
1. Good People IPA: My go-to grillin’ beer this summer will be the first canned offering from my local ale factory. Good People’s IPA is delicious, refreshing, and comes complete with retro-looking “American” graphics that seem both blatantly jingoistic yet somehow ironic.
2. Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale: If I need a pounder can, Southern Star’s Pine Belt is the clear choice. A nice, easy-drinking Pale Ale from a great little Texas brewery. Floral nose, light body, and a super-clean finish.
3. Avery Joe’s American Pilsner: The first Avery cans to grace Alabama’s shelves, the Joe is a classic American pilsner. Aggressively hopped with a good, sweet pilsner malt foundation, Avery’s pilsner is a welcome rendition of an* ubiquitous style.
Editor’s note: nice use of the correct article there, smuggy.
In reality, I’m clearly drinking whatever is in my fridge when the spatula comes out, but in the theoretical world of the Conundra, the aforementioned triumvirate will be the beers my dinner guests would see sitting between the flame control knobs on my Weber.
It is safe to say that I will never understand beer distribution. Why you get access to Avery’s Joe’s Pilsner there in Alabama and I can’t get it here in Illinois is beyond me. I live in Adam Avery’s hometown. And yet still, nada. It’s not available in Chicago either. Who knows? But I want to try that beer. Frustrating. By the way: I’ve also never had a Dale’s. No Oskar Blues here!
Regardless, here are my beer choices, all available in Illinois. Compiling this little list made me realize that there still aren’t that many breweries around here that can their beers, all things considered.
1. Half Acre Daisy Cutter: I’ve mentioned this beer a few times before, and to me it’s among the best American pale ales your money can buy. It comes in a sweet 16 oz can, and it packs quite the refreshing hop wallop.
2. Half Acre Gossamer Golden Ale: I’m sure that some of you would think that me saying “the best golden ale in the world” is akin to saying “the smartest of the Three Stooges,” but this 16 oz can contains the best American golden ale in the world. Period. Next list entry.
3. Capital Island Wheat: If you’re looking for a canned beer that is a little bit more quenching and gentle on the palate than the hop-forward Daisy Cutter, the Capital Island Wheat is an excellent choice. It’s your American-style pale wheat beer, with a little bit of bready flavor and lively carbonation that pairs well with practically any food. I could put down a lot of these low-alcohol 12 oz cans. This is a rare American style from Madison’s Capital, which is one of the country’s best brewers of traditional German-style brews. In fact, this is probably one of only two American-style beers Capital makes. (Don’t try the pale ale, it sucks. Stick with the German stuff.)
I can think of a few more good, local canned beers (The Wild Onion’s fantastic Jack Stout comes to mind), but they don’t really fit the “hot outdoor cookout” theme.
Aleheads are ambassadors for a world of beer that lays beyond the realm of experience for most civilians. Thus, our public actions have real repercussions in a world of lite beer drinkers and craft beer virgins. Aside from being the most casual cooking technique (short of microwaving hot pockets in your underwear) grilling is also the most social; consider Tony Soprano’s lieutenants approaching the Don to share a brew, flip some porterhouses, and discuss the next skull that requires cracking. Most folks will drink whatever you provide at your grilling function- make sure it’s a high quality yet accessible session beer that will make their experience a great one.
You: “Hey, you want a beer?”
Them: “Uh, sure. You got light beer?”
Them: “Umm… what are you having?”
You: “Try one- you’ll like it.”*
*At this point, fight the urge to go into a dissertation about the beer they are about to imbibe.
My beer sponsor for the 2011 Grilling Season will be the Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. Complex and hoppy enough to satisfy my own perverse predilections, it also has a welcome bready balance that the whole family will love. Make this summer the summer that your friend and family stop drinking cheap swill- if you don’t soldier this responsibility, who will?
They’ll thank you later.
I’ll stick with the theme with a solid canned craft brew. I’m surprised though, that no one has mentioned a necessary element when drinking a can of beer outside in the summer, the koozie (alternatively (and incorrectly) spelled coosie or cosy). One down side of drinking a canned beer is that it warms up more quickly than a beer in a glass bottle, because of physics. This can be good, if it is winter and you have a can of Ten-Fidy and a fireplace. In summer the poor insulation of a can is decidedly bad.
In my koozie this summer, there will always be a Ska Modus Hoperandi. I have very limited selection of craft cans here, but I don’t mind, since it doesn’t get much better than a Modus. It packs a huge, floral hop punch that rivals any of the premier IPAs, but is a touch lower in % ABV, and so smooth I could drink it all afternoon.
It doesn’t need to be in a can. It’s ok, folks. You can drink from a bottle.
I’m gonna stand up for one of my favorites. It gets overshadowed all the time because of all of its bigger and bolder older brothers. But it happens to be a damn good beer in its own right. You cannot possibly go wrong with the plain old Lagunitas IPA. Sure, I love me some Hop Stoopid and Maximus, and that Waldo’s Special Ale sounds insane. But when I’m over-cooking salmon or under-cooking chicken, the Lagunitas IPA is never a bad call.
Acceptable answers also include Sam Summer (for old-times sake) and Oscar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils (I honestly don’t love pilsners, but this one’s an exception. And yes, Brother Barley. It’s in a can. Does that make you feel more loved?).
I don’t care about cans for this one, as I love a nice sweaty-cold bottle while I’m grilling at least as much as a sweaty-cold can. However a 12oz bottle vs. a bomber seems to be a reasonable requirement, and fortunately one of my favorite breweries has just started shipping 6-packs of bottles. And so I’m going to go with an assortment of Ninkasi brews this time around. Tricerahops DIPA will do nicely for the hop-ish types, Radiant Ale (their summer seasonal) will work for the more timid beer drinkers, and Oatis Oatmeal Stout will be an excellent option for those stouter drinkers.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go light the coals and stand there watching them (with a beer) to make sure that they burn.