Mouth-watering beer marinades for summer grills

Hot chili and cold beer are made for each other

Beer-based marinades add so much flavour to barbecued dishes. Here’s how to get your favourite brews into the mix

Brews were made for summer barbecues. So why not use them in your recipes to maximize their taste appeal? Beer adds loads of flavour to marinades — from acidity to sweetness, herbal to fruity notes, refreshing to roasted overtones. And it pairs beautifully with just about anything you feel like throwing on the grill, so get ready to test your creativity.


First, let’s talk about how to marinate. You’ll need about 3/4 cup (180 mL) of marinade for every 450 g of protein or veggies you want to cook.

Mix it up: In a large resealable bag or shallow dish, combine marinade ingredients (see below). Add 1 to 1.3 kg of meat, fish, seafood, tofu, fruit or veggies; push out any excess air, seal the bag and massage well. (If you’re using a shallow dish, turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap.) Refrigerate, turning once or twice, for the time listed below before grilling.

Pair it up: To match the ideal beer with your protein (or veggies), focus on flavour families. Brews generally fall under the following broad categories: crisp and neutral, hoppy and bitter, malty and sweet, toasty and roasty, and fruity and floral.

Crisp and neutral brews

  • Beer types: Refreshing, clean-tasting pilsners, pale lagers and cream ales.
  • Marinating choices: Lighter-tasting proteins you don’t want to overpower. Try chicken, lean white fish, shrimp, scallops and lean pork loin. You can also use mild-tasting veggies, such as zucchini, peppers, eggplant and white mushrooms. Steer clear of deep-green vegetables, which may discolour due to the acids in the marinade.
  • Lemon Herb Beer Marinade: Combine 12 oz (330 mL) crisp and neutral beer, such as pilsner or blonde ale; 1 green apple, grated; 1/4 cup (60 mL) each chopped parsley and mint; 2 tbsp (30 mL) each chopped tarragon and lemon juice; 3 cloves garlic, smashed; 1 shallot, finely chopped; 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil; 1 tsp (5 mL) salt; and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) pepper.
  • Pro tip: Delicate fish and seafood will actually begin to “cook” in an acidic marinade. Keep the marinating time minimal so they absorb flavour without changing texture.

Hoppy and bitter brews

  • Beer types: Bracingly bitter brews, such as India pale ales and English-style bitters and pale ales.
  • Marinating choices: Fattier meats and sweet sauces. Try pork shoulder; dry-rubbed or saucy pork and beef ribs; smoked meats; dark-meat chicken and turkey; lamb leg and shoulder; and fatty fish, like salmon, trout and arctic char. Choose sweeter, earthier vegetables, such as plum tomatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. Again, steer clear of green vegetables, which already have a bitter edge.
  • Honeyed Peach Beer Marinade: In a food processor or blender, combine 12 oz (330 mL) hoppy and bitter beer, such as India pale ale or English bitter; 2 ripe peaches (or 3 apricots), pitted and coarsely chopped; 1/3 cup (80 mL) each Dijon mustard and liquid honey; 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil; 1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce; 1 sweet onion, sliced; 2 tsp (10 mL) thyme leaves; 1 tsp (5 mL) salt; and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) pepper. Whirl until smooth.
  • Pro tip: Let excess marinade drip off and brush away any solids before cooking (they’ll char on the grill). To cook low-and-slow proteins, like pork shoulder or ribs, covered in sweet marinades, use indirect heat. Don’t baste with marinade that has touched raw meat; simply set aside a small amount in the fridge to brush on in the final minutes of cooking.

Malty and sweet brews

  • Beer types: Mild beers with mellow sweetness and caramel notes, such as brown ales, blonde and golden ales, red and amber lagers, Belgian-style pale ales, bocks and double bocks.
  • Marinating choices: Fatty meats, like pork ribs and shoulder, dark-meat chicken, sweet root vegetables, tofu, fatty fish and braising cuts of meat (think stewing beef and lamb shoulder).
  • Coffee Malt Beer Marinade: Combine 12 oz (330 mL) malty and sweet beer, such as brown ale or bock; 1/4 cup (60 mL) peanut or other neutral oil; 2 tbsp (30 mL) each grainy mustard, malt vinegar and maple syrup; 1 shot cooled brewed espresso (or heaping 1 tsp/5 mL instant espresso powder); 2 cloves garlic, grated or pressed; 1 tsp (5 mL) each crushed caraway seeds, ground cumin and salt; and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) pepper.
  • Pro tip: Reserve 1/4 cup (60 mL) marinade to add to 450 g ground beef as a burger booster. It will add a beer-kissed flavour and lots of juiciness to your patties.

Toasty and roasty brews

  • Beer types: Rich, well-balanced beers with roasted, bittersweet chocolaty notes, such as porters, stouts and barrel-fermented Scotch ales.
  • Marinating choices: Pork shoulder, tofu, chicken, wings, ribs, portobello mushrooms, eggplant, heavily spiced dry-rubbed meats and smoked items. Aged cheeses are also incredibly tasty with them, so crumble a bit of creamy blue, aged Gruyère or sharp cheddar over a side salad.
  • Jerk Stout Beer Marinade: Combine 12 oz (330 mL) roasty and toasty beer, such as stout; 1/4 cup (60 mL) ketchup or barbecue sauce; 1/4 cup (60 mL) packed light brown sugar; 2 tbsp (30 mL) each soy sauce and lime juice; 1 tbsp (15 mL) each olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and jerk seasoning; 3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed; and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) grated fresh ginger.
  • Pro tip: Always marinate meat in the refrigerator and discard any remaining marinade. Pat the meat dry and season with a little extra salt before grilling.

Fruity and floral brews

  • Beer types: Fruit-infused beers or mild, mellow or floral beers that pair well with fruit, such as pale wheat beers, Belgian-style strong ales and blonde ales, Belgian wheat beers and radlers.
  • Marinating choices: Mild meats and seafood that pair well with fruit, such as chicken and pork, tofu, shrimp, scallops, lobster and crab. They’re also an excellent choice for marinating grilled pineapple or mango.
  • Coconut-Orange Wheat Beer Marinade: Combine 12 oz (330 mL) fruity and floral beer, such as Belgian wheat beer or radler; 1/4 cup (60 mL) coconut milk; 1 tsp (5 mL) grated orange zest; 2 tbsp (30 mL) each orange juice and chopped cilantro; 1 tbsp (15 mL) each soy sauce, cider vinegar, honey and chopped mint; and 2 cloves garlic, grated or pressed. If you like it spicy, add 1 bird’s-eye chili, minced.
  • Pro tip: If you’re using this marinade for seafood, reserve some and whisk it with an equal measure of melted butter to make a decadent dipper.

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