Fall is a season full of outdoor gatherings, and no matter what you’re celebrating, everyone’s got to eat.

Next to the actual event, perhaps the best part of catching a game or a concert is that gathering of kindred spirits known as tailgating: the sound of laughter mixing with tunes blaring from speakers, the smell of meats on the grill, and the many shapes and sizes of coolers filled with ice and beverages.

Tailgating is an all-American tradition, and for the true brew enthusiast, it’s a chance to bring new flavors to the pre-party.

While many at the tailgate will go for the lighter, or so-called “lawnmower” beers, it’s okay to branch out and have a variety of styles on hand. Consider choosing beers whose flavors will complement or contrast with the food you’re bringing. Grilling? Why not try a maltier beer, like a porter or doppelbock? Steaming some clams? Why not a wheat beer? An India Pale Ale is a perfect fit for a dish with some spice. As long as you pick a quality beer, it’s hard to go wrong.

Here are a few recipes from The American Craft Beer Cookbook that are sure to enhance any tailgate and might even bring a few unexpected visitors to your particular spot in the parking lot.

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Local Chèvre and Mint-Cilantro Aioli

Using ground lamb rather than the more traditional beef in a burger adds a juicier flavor, especially if you’re using naturally raised young spring lamb.Many farms offer lamb of this quality, and butcher shops will probably offer a better selection than the meat aisle of your local grocery store. Eggs help the burger mixture bind together and cook more evenly. The addition of cilantro to the burger mixture and cilantro and mint to the aioli gives the dish a pop of vibrant flavor. Pair with a fortifying amber ale that allows malts and hops to mingle harmoniously.

Makes 6 burgers

Ingredients

Mint-Cilantro Aioli
  • 1 cup aioli or mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Burgers
  • 3 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 ounces fresh chèvre
  • 6 brioche or burger buns
  • 1 head green or red leaf lettuce
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced

Directions

  1. Make the aioli: Whisk the aioli, cilantro, mint, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and salt together in a small bowl to fully incorporate the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Make the burgers: Mix the lamb, eggs, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire in a large bowl until combined. Form the burger mixture into six 7-ounce patties, transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use, or up to 1 day.
  3. Prepare a medium-high fire in a gas or charcoal grill.
  4. Transfer the patties to the grill and cook until medium-well, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Remove the patties from the grill. Top the burgers with the chèvre, dividing the cheese equally. Let the patties rest for 1 minute.
  5. Spread the aioli on the bottom halves of the buns, and then top with the lettuce, tomato, and onion. Add the burger patties and top halves and serve immediately.

Loose Cannon Wings

This is a great take on a traditional pub favorite. The citrus hop presence from the Loose Cannon (or similar India pale ale) blends nicely with the fruit juice in the marinade, giving great flavor to the wings without the mess associated with a sticky sauce. Grilling the wings is also healthier than deep-frying, meaning you can have a few more than usual without any guilt.

Makes 6–8 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Southwest seasoning or cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA, or similar beer
  • 2½ pounds chicken wings
  • Olive oil
  • Ranch dressing, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine the salt, brown sugar, Southwest seasoning, pepper flakes, water, orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice in a large ziplock bag; close the bag and shake until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add the onion, lime slices, cilantro, garlic, and beer and shake to combine and degas the beer.
  2. Add the chicken wings to the bag and shake the bag so that the wings are submerged. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours.
  3. Remove the wings from the refrigerator and discard the brining solution. Pat the wings dry with paper towels and set aside to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare a low fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the wings with olive oil to prevent sticking. Grill until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve the wings hot with a side of ranch dressing, if using.

Recipes excerpted from The American Craft Beer Cookbook © 2013 by John Holl. All rights reserved.

John Holl

John Holl is a New Jersey native and covered the Garden State for the New York Times and the Star-Ledger. He began his career at New Jersey Network… See Bio

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