Labor Day Picnic: Cheers to Barbecue and Beer

By Suzanne Corbett


Labor Day. A time to toast working men and women and say good-bye to summer. That said, what should we toast with? A cold beer. Make that two beers because this Labor Day, September 7, 2020 is National Beer Day.  Ice up the cooler and chill the beer of your choice and indulge responsibility. Something else I can recommend doing with that beer. Cook. Saved a few beers and cook up something wonderful.

Beer is a great ingredient that can enhance countless recipes. And it isn’t have difficult as you might think. Just remember the number rule: When cooking with beer, use the beer you like to drink. If you don’t like the way a beer tastes chances are you won’t like it in the recipe.

When cooking with beer for the first time I recommend starting off using lighter colored brews such as golden lagers, pale or nut-brown ales.  Full bodied dark brews are great  baking. It’s a great addition to my rye bread, chocolate cake and brownie recipes.

Not sure about mixing beer into a dessert? Then start with something easy such as a Chocolate Stout Float (shown in photo, left). Just place A few tablespoons of chocolate syrup in the bottom of a glass, top with a few scoops of chocolate ice cream, then pour in the stout. top with whipped cream , nuts or a drizzle of chocolate  syrup. Of course, don’t give this treat to anyone under the legal drinking age.

Pairing beer with food revolves around complementing or contrasting flavors to create a balance. For example, light lagers with subtle flavors complement such delicate flavors as seafood, fresh fruit and simple salads. Hearty and malty flavors of bock-style beers complement bold-flavored foods. Dark lagers pair nicely with grilled meats. Light lagers’ crisp finish is a perfect match and helps reduce the heat found in spicy Mexican, Thai or Indian cuisines.  These are the beers I love with barbecue.

In honor of summer’s last few days, and, of course, Nati0nal Beer Day, try adding some beer into the season’s last barbecue.  Here are a few of my favorites I’ve taught at Dierberg’s School of Cooking, courtesy of National Beer Wholesalers Association.


Warm Wheat Beer Potato Salad

2 bottles White Beer, Wheat Beer or Lager Beer (12 ounces each)

4 cloves garlic, smashed with side of knife

2 1/2 pounds   baby red and baby Yukon gold potatoes, quartered

1 orange bell pepper, diced

3 scallions, sliced thin

5 all-beef frankfurters, cut into 1-inch slices

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup cider vinegar

salt and black pepper to taste


Pour beer into large pot with colander insert; add garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place potatoes in colander or steam basket and place over simmering beer. Cover tightly with lid. Reduce heat to low and steam about 18-20 minutes, until just tender when pierced with fork. If beer begins to evaporate while cooking, add water to the pot.

Transfer cooked potatoes to large bowl; add bell pepper and scallions. Cover bowl with foil to keep warm. Remove garlic from pot; mince. Reserve 1/2 cup of reduced beer from pot.

In large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat; add frankfurters and cook until lightly browned, about four minutes. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon and add to potato mixture; recover potato mixture to keep warm. Whisk flour into skillet drippings and whisk one minute, or until blended and creamy. Add minced garlic, water, vinegar and reserved beer reduction.

Bring dressing to a boil; simmer two minute, until dressing is thick and smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Pour dressing over potato salad and toss well to coat. Serve immediately, while still warm.   Makes 4 entrée servings.

Going back to what I said at the beginning. If you are going to cook with beer, choose something you like. And since it’s a holiday weekend, be sure you have enough to sip on while doing your cooking.

What a coincidence it is that Monday, September 7, 2020– Labor Day– is also “National Beer Lovers’ Day.”  Here’s to enjoying life even during a pandemic.Cheers.


Blackened Beer Brined Chicken

2 cups apple cider

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 chicken cut-up or 4 chicken quarters or 4 medium bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

2 (12-ounce) bottles amber beer

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne or Tabasco (optional)


Combine the cider, sugar, salt, cinnamon, bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir just until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and let to cool to room temperature.

Place chicken in a zip-lock plastic bag. Stir the beer into the cider mixture, and then pour over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for 4 to 8 hours.

Using a kettle style or pellet grill, transfer the chicken from the brine to a clean plate. Melt butter and stir in chili powder and cayenne. Brush half the chili butter over the chicken. Cover and cook chicken, turning to promote even browning  until chicken reaches 165°F, its juices run clear, and the inside is no longer pink. Remove form grill and cover chicken aluminum foil and let them rest 10 minutes.


Beer-B-Que Sauce

2 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup minced onion

2 jalepeno chiles, finely minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bottle Oatmeal Stout Beer or Porter Beer (12 ounces)

2/3 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 teaspoons  salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add onions, chiles and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, about four to five minutes, until onion and chiles are tender but not browned.

Stir in beer; mix well until foam dissolves. Add chili sauce, molasses, mustard, tomato paste, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine all ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer ten minutes, stirring several times, until thick.

Let sauce cool completely. Pour into clean jar with tight-fitting lid. Use immediately, or store sauce in refrigerator for up to three weeks.  Makes 3 cups, about 12 servings



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