by April Lisante

I think it’s safe to say that this Fourth of July will look a lot different for many of us.

As we’ve all muddled through this quarantine, which has dragged on from spring’s arrival, we’ve watched Easter and Passover come and go, did drive-by wishes for graduations that never took place and a celebrated a Memorial Day holiday that was subdued at best.

Many of us won’t be headed to the beach, a parade or fireworks, this Saturday. That right there is going to make it feel like a very different holiday.

But the one thing I am thankful for is the opportunity to finally get together with some friends that have been quarantining so that we can at least have a backyard barbeque.

Since Memorial Day, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve missed barbeques. I’ve been outside grilling dinners up for my family, but there’s nothing like making some good old barbequed comfort food with friends.

When I went looking for a Hill resto with a crazy good barbequed meat repertoire for Fourth of July cooking, I looked no further than the Chestnut Hill Brewery. One of the restaurants that will be open on the Fourth, Chestnut Hill Brewery husband and wife owners Nick Gunderson and Lindsey Pete serve up some serious marinated meats atop their gourmet pies. The meats are made with their in-house brewed beers, and I was anxious to learn how they do it.

When meats are cooked in beer, there is a two-fold effect. The alcohol in beer, much like wine, evaporates, leaving the flavor behind in the meat. It also helps make the meat juicier.

My only experience with beer and chicken is Food Network super chef Bobby Flay’s tried and true beer can chicken recipes. Stick a can of beer in the chicken cavity, throw it on the grill, and wait for the evaporated goodness to permeate the grilled meat.

But Gunderson, who is the master brewer at Chestnut Hill Brewery, does it a lot differently. He and one of his chefs, Jordan Welsh, go the gourmet route when it comes to making their BBQ with brew: they marinate and cook the meats in the beer.

“We soak the chicken in beer and bake it right in the pizza oven,” Gunderson said. “Chicken is better with lighter beers and darker, malty beers tend to go better with red meats.”

The restaurant’s BBQ Chicken Pizza is one of their specialties, a pie topped with fontina and mozzarella, red onion and their chicken. When they make the beer chicken in house, they actually marinate it by immersing it in beer and then baking it in a pan in the pizza oven. The result is tender, flavorful chicken.

To adapt his method for the grill, Gunderson has a few tips to help get that same juicy taste.

If you are making pork or chicken, you want to use a light, crisp beer, like a Hefeweizen, a pilsner or any type of wheat beer. If you are making burgers or red meats, you want to marinate the meat in darker beers, like porters, lagers or stouts. And if you are grilling veggies, like asparagus or squash, a citrusy India Pale Ale would be the best bet, he said.

His favorite choice for chicken is a bronze beer he makes at the Brewery, a light but bitter beer that pairs well with the bird.

The key to marinating is to soak it in beer and barbeque sauce for about two hours before you want to throw it on the grill, Gunderson said. Once it is done marinating, that’s when you add the salt, pepper and herbs and throw it on.

Here is the Chestnut Hill Brewery’s recipe for beer chicken, adapted for readers to try at home.

“For the readers who are planning to put this chicken on the grill, the methods are a little different [from what we do in the restaurant] but the outcome will be that great taste,” Gunderson said.

Chestnut Hill Brewery Beer BBQ Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
  • 1 bottle pilsner or wheat beer
  • 1 Tbsp. barbeque sauce
  • 1 tsp. rosemary, fresh
  • 1 tsp. thyme, fresh
  • 1 tsp. dill, fresh
  • 1 tsp. sage, fresh
  • Salt and pepper to season

Place chicken in a bowl or container. Mix beer and barbeque sauce together and pour over chicken. DO not season chicken. Place under refrigeration for at least 2 hours. Once the chicken is marinated, take it out of container and place in a new container. Season by finely chopping and adding herbs. Add salt and pepper. Place on barbeque until internal temperature reaches 165. Check chicken regularly, adding barbeque sauce with a brush for extra flavor, if desired.

Serves 4.

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