Spiced Up Beer Can Chicken

Each month we celebrate Fernie’s amazing food scene by challenging a local pro to create a five-ingredient recipe with delicious–and revealing–results.

Pauly Roberts’ Chicken with Gravy
• Chicken
• Beer(s)
• Jerk seasoning: Dry rub or sauce
• Potato starch
• Olive oil

Brewer Pauly Roberts of Fernie Brewing Co. admitted to me that Beer Can Chicken was “one of my favourite ways to cook chicken,” and probably the first dish he ever made using beer. Hold it right there, you’re thinking. He’s not a chef.

Let me explain. Around my house, May kicks off the season of beer and BBQ consumed outside without wearing parkas. Besides, I asked Roberts whether brewers were like chefs. He told me brewing is like “cooking with liquid, really. There’s a brew recipe that we have to follow, tight timing commits [when] you have to make additions, add water at certain points. The brew house is basically just one big kitchen.” I rest my case (of beer).

When it comes to cooking with it Roberts isn’t shy, mixing beers into soups and stews and a dark stout into ground beef for Shepherd’s Pie. He’s added pumpkin ale (a seasonal offering from Fernie Brewing) to his muffin mix and an IPA or Pilsner for extra light and bubbly batter in beerbattered fish. He suggested adding a splash of Java The Hut Coffee Milk Stout to chocolate mouse.

For this recipe, Roberts recommended investing in a beer can chicken stand for good stability and if it doesn’t come with a built-in tray, place one under it. You want all those delicious drippings. Crack open the beer you’re going to use for your chicken– Roberts likes Campout West Coast Pale or Lone Wolf IPA. Take a few sips. Then insert the can into the chicken and position on the stand. “Make
sure you check the can,” cautioned Roberts. Some cans are wrapped with a plastic label. “Take the wrap off before you put it in the chicken!”

Now choose your seasonings. Roberts struck me as a man who doesn’t compromise on his beer or his BBQ so I wasn’t surprised at how particular he was about two options. His go-to dry rub is a jerk blend from Calgary’s Silk Road Spice Merchant (available online). His favourite sauce is from Skratch Bastid, “a DJ buddy of mine,” he explained, “who has his own jerk and hot sauce line. He does these travelling BBQs.” Intrigued? Go to Bastid’s website to purchase his sauces and CDs and check out his events schedule.

Massage your chosen seasoning all over the bird. If you’re using dry rub, apply a little oil first so it sticks better. Cook the bird until juices run clear (timing depends on your grill and size of bird).

Once the fowl’s done, make the gravy. Pour the drippings into a pan and add beer to taste. Roberts recommends First Trax Brown Ale or Big Caboose Red Ale. Heat to bubbling and whisk in a thickener. Roberts tries to avoid gluten products (“I cheat on beer!” he said) so he uses potato starch. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer until it reaches a lovely, velvety smoothness. Then call your tribe around, cut up the chicken and slather everything with the rich gravy. Cheers!