If dull burgers and humdrum franks have you second guessing your duty as an American to cook outdoors, then it's time to spice things up. Or maybe it's the macro light lager that has bored out of your wits. These savory foodstuffs and accompanying beers will rekindle any fading barbecue flame and will have you spending your waking hours thinking of what to put on your grill next.
1. Portabella Mushrooms
A well seasoned portabella mushroom can pack incredible flavor. Topped with feta cheese and spinach, one of these makes a healthy substitute for a steak or chop. Top with blue cheese, bacon, and sliced red onion, and you've got a knockout burger. Or since you're at the grill, why not go Panini? The crisp, clean, hoppy flavors of English Bitter Ales and American Pales make a lively, delectable complement.
2. Beer Can Chicken
It's a novelty that just about everybody has heard of but too few have tried. Even if you have attempted this backyard favorite, give it another go with a beer that packs more character than a can of mass-produced domestic. Pour an India Pale Ale, Stout, or Double Bock beer into a tin can and let these bold libations impart their distinctive flavor upon your poultry. Don't forget to pour one for yourself to enjoy as you dig in.
Frozen and pre-made pizza doughs are a godsend to the backyard cook. The possibilities here are as endless as they are in the oven, so don't be shy. And don't be afraid to let the edges of your crusts take on the slightest bit of char; that's just succulent flavor when paired with the sweetness of your sauce. Amber and Red Ales offer a balance of roasted, malty flavors with just a hint of fruitiness that gets along swimmingly with any pie.
4. Barbecue Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburgers
Anyone can do burgers, but everyone likes to keep a few tricks up their sleeves. For a burger with indelible tang and zest, give this a try. Along with your usual seasonings, generously lace your patties with fresh black pepper. If you have an upper rack, line it with strips of bacon. They key is to use a little charcoal or wood, even with a gas model, to imbue every bite with a hint of smokiness. Let the bacon grease drip down on your burgers as they cook (sure it's decadent, but if you're going to do it, do it right.) When your burgers are nearly done, drizzle them with your favorite barbecue sauce and top with a slice or two of real white cheddar cheese. Place on a fresh, lightly buttered, toasted bun, and get ready to send your taste buds into the stratosphere. Bring them back to earth with the crisp, refreshing floral flavors of a Czech-style Pilsner.
5. Goat Cheese Polenta
You can cheat a little on this one. Feel free to use a saucepan on the stove for melting some butter for your polenta, but if you have a side burner, be a sport and keep it outside. Add chicken broth, chopped onion, and your polenta of barley, cornmeal, or semolina to the butter and let it cook and thicken on low heat for about 15 minutes. Add feta and/or other goat cheese, water, rosemary, and thyme and let cool until cuttable. Now it's grill time. Glaze your polenta pieces with olive oil and cook with copious amounts of vegetables like squash, eggplant, and bell peppers. Serve with a few lightly grilled pieces of goat cheese and serve alongside a Hefeweizen or local wheat beer poured into a tall, slender glass that will retain the beer's billowing, aromatic head.
6. Mint Pesto Lamb Chops
Break out the food processor and stock it with pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, mint, and a little lemon juice to take traditional pesto to exciting new places. Now you've got a succulent sauce for lathering your lamb. Pair with a robust Old Brown Ale or Belgian Dubbel for a candy sweetness that can't miss. You can even try a Fruit Lambic instead of a traditional cranberry side.
7. Grilled Shark Tacos
It sounds out there, but it couldn't be easier. Simply grill steaks of shark, swordfish, tuna, or mahi-mahi, and slice. Place corn tortillas on a hot grate for 10-15 seconds per side, and load with fish, shredded jack cheese, diced onion, and sliced avocado. Top with fresh salsa, chopped cilantro, and lime juice, and go fish. Couple with a Belgian Blond Ale or delicate Belgian Wit to draw out the tangy citrus flavor, and you may find that your backyard is your favorite place for seafood.