What Is the Best Beer for Beer Can Chicken?

Want to finally make the best beer can chicken that everyone will be raving about, but don’t know whether the can of beer tucked away in the back of your fridge will do the job?

The answer might be yes.

Not all types of beer are compatible with chicken, but that does not mean you have to spend a fortune on a fancy regional IPA to cook up a delicious meal. The beer you are already drinking by the grill might do the job. Just make sure to leave half of a can for the chicken.

Now, the type of beer isn’t chosen simply out of convenience. Several factors were considered before suggesting a beer for your next recipe. So, what is the best beer for beer can chicken? 

A general rule of thumb is that lager beer is the best beer for beer can chicken due to its middle-of-the-road levels of bitterness and overall flavor. Several popular lager beers you may be familiar with are Coors Light, Budweiser, and Heineken. These beers tend to be light in color, unlike their ale counterparts which are often a dark brown. Along with the lighter color, lager beer also tends to be crisper in taste when compared to ale beer which is more full-bodied and sometimes even fruity.


What Is the Difference Between Lager and Ale?

For the average person only trying to make beer can chicken on a Saturday afternoon, the difference between lager and ale may simply come down to the color. However, there is more to it.

Any beer that you pick up at your local grocery store can be classified into one of these categories, and it all depends on the yeast. Although both types of beer require yeast for the fermentation process, the yeast used to make ale beer prefers warmer temperatures whereas the yeast used to make lager beer works best in the cold.

In fact, the word “lager” actually comes from a German word that means “to store” as lager beer used to be stored in cool caves. Lager beer would start its fermentation process in the colder winter months and be ready to drink come spring. Due to the colder temperatures, lager also takes longer to ferment when compared to ales as the yeast metabolism works slower.

Related: Lager vs. Ale: An In-Depth Comparison

How Does Beer Get Its Flavor?

Besides yeast and water, beer is made using two other main ingredients, malt, and hops. We will be skipping over the chemistry lesson on how the different acids and oils degrade and oxidize during the fermentation process to create different levels of bitterness and aroma. However, we can confidently say that the flavor of beer can be attributed to the aforementioned ingredients in their many variations, applications, and quantities.

What Are Hops?

Hops - What is the best beer for beer can chicken?

Do you got hops? Basketball has never been my strong suit, so let’s get to the point.

Hops are small bitter green flowers that derive from the Humulus lupulus plant. Inside of these small flowers are even tinier yellow glands. These small glands are referred to as lupulin, and they are what all the brewers are after. After all, lupulin is what actually holds the acids and oils needed to give beer flavor.

Throughout the brewing process, hops are often added twice depending on the flavors and aromas the brewer is looking to achieve. This is due to the temperatures at which the acids and oils become soluble. Since acids require very high temperatures to release their bitter flavors, oils tend to boil away as they are less resilient to high temperatures. Due to this, hops are often added again during the cold stage of the brewing process to ensure the beer maintains its aromatic properties.

What Is Malt?

Have you ever heard someone say this beer tastes “malty” but never understood what they really meant? Hopefully, this will help,

Malt refers to any grain that has gone through the malting process. The goal of the malting process is to be left with wort which is a sugary liquid that eventually aids during the fermentation stage. Most brewers use barley or wheat as a base, but other grains like rye and oats can also be used.

There are several steps in the malting process. Soaking the grain, also referred to as steeping, is first. Soaking is followed by germinating, kilning, and sometimes even roasting. The level of kilting or roasting is one of the main determining factors of the color, texture, flavor, and aroma of the given beer. Beer which uses a malt that has been roasted significantly tends to give off a dark hue and flavors similar to coffee or chocolate.

What Flavors Go Well With Chicken?

Now that we have reviewed the main ingredients and the flavors they bring to the table, it would be appropriate to mention the flavors which are known to pair best with chicken. Lager beer such as Budweiser or Coors Light was originally recommended based on its level of acidity and bitterness. This is because the acidity in the beer should aid in balancing the rich flavor of meat, specifically dark, and fat from the skin.

In fact, this is why chicken is often cooked with the addition of lemon juice, lemon zest, or even lemon slices. Ultimately, this is also why many other foods are recommended to be eaten in very specific wine or alcohol pairings. The goal is for the foods to complement each other resulting in a delicious overall flavor.

What If I Don’t Like Beer?

That is OK! Not everyone enjoys beer. Fortunately, chicken is very versatile and the options for other flavorful liquids to substitute beer with are endless. Whether you’re anti-beer or overall anti-alcohol, you have options.

Since it was determined that acidity complements the rich flavor of chicken, suggesting a can of lemon-lime soda such as 7-Up, or Sprite as a choice would not seem out of place. Others might opt for a more ornate option of white wine like Pinot Grigio in which the primary flavors are lime and lemon followed by stone fruit and apples. Chardonnay may also work well as the classic dry wine carries a rich citrus tone just like the previous contenders.

No matter what you choose, you’re likely to end up with a delicious, crisp, and flavor-infused meal that everyone will enjoy.

How Do You Make Beer Can Chicken?
How Do You Make Beer Can Chicken?

Nobody seems to know where the idea of beer can chicken originated, but the concept definitely stuck around. Some say it first started in Louisiana, but many others pinpoint to Texas. Whatever the case is, someone somewhere decided to stick a half can of beer into the cavity of a whole chicken and call it dinner. What I love most about this recipe is just that, that’s all it is.

Before starting to cook, make sure to wash the chicken and preheat the grill to about 350°F to 375°F degrees. The chicken can be seasoned to the preference of the individual with your choice of spices.

Below are the commonly recommended chicken rub ingredients:

  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Cumin
  • Thyme
  • Brown Sugar
  • Ground Oregano

Before rubbing the spices onto your chicken underneath the skin, and inside the cavity, remember to pat it down with a dry paper towel to remove any moisture. This will give the chicken the crispy skin everyone is craving.

Once the chicken seasoning spice rub is distributed evenly grab your beer. As you already read, we recommend a lager. Empty out half of the can, set your chicken on top of the can like a tripod, making sure it is balanced.

Cook your chicken upright for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Once done, test your chicken for doneness. The meat thermometer should read 165°F degrees. Once off the grill, let the chicken rest under foil for about 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Related: Does Beer Tenderize Meat?

How to Remove the Can From the Beer Can Chicken?

Here come the finishing touches.

The grilling time passes by, and you’re ready to take out the chicken. The problem is, unlike everything else you’ve ever cooked on your grill, this one is sitting atop an extremely hot metal can. As you take your time admiring the majestic bird, you try to figure out a game plan for removing the beer can from the chicken. This needs to be done slowly and safely without hurting the chicken and more importantly yourself.

Here is the plan:

  1. You will need a pair of tongs, a spatula, and a cutting board
  2. Place the spatula under the can and use your tongs to grab hold of your chicken
  3. Pick up your chicken and move it onto the cutting board
  4. Use the cutting board to transport the chicken to a place where you can safely remove the can
  5. Preferably next to the sink, hold the chicken on one side while using tongs to remove the can from underneath
  6. Discard any remaining fluid in the can
  7. Serve the chicken with your favorite beer
  8. Enjoy your meal!