Cerveza a la Brasa

A Brief History

The story of man and beer goes back surprisingly far; almost as far as the story of man and fire. For many Gringos a la Brasa, this fact may hardly be a surprise at all. After all, how long could men sit idly by a crackling hardwood fire, without thinking....”something is dreadfully out of place and missing from this experience”. It didn't take much time for our most revered relatives to endure this absence before saying “enough is enough, we must fill this void”. These first fermentables may not have been considered “beer” by modern standards, but the seed was planted . Using slightly looser standards, we are happy to consider any beverage that is high in sugar content and subjected to fermentation (wild or otherwise) to be considered “beer”. By that standard, “beer” is a very old friend indeed. The first written accounts of these fermented beverages date back nearly 6000 years to ancient Sumeria. However, these stone tablets simply reveal that beer had likely been part of the human experience for far longer. Chemical residue testing of jars found in ancient Iran show beer's presence in early man's life more than 7000 years ago. Creationists may argue with the dates on this one, but the point is that the history of beer is nearly as old as the history of mankind itself.


Barley has been a component for nearly 5000 of those years. In fact, the invention of beer and bread is widely believed to be the impetus for mankind's ability to develop agricultural technologies leading to the birth of civilization as we know it. That’s a pretty heady accolade for a drink that many just consider as an excuse to act out their favorite scenes from Caddyshack and spend their afternoons tailgating. So the next time you are in the parking lot drinking beer from a Solo cup and reveling with your friends...please honor you ancestors and toast the Sumerians! Without them, there would likely be no football, baseball, outdoor concerts, public houses, pool, darts, democracy, or beer pong! Those magnificent bastards made it all possible, so do your part and remind anyone who will listen.


At some point along our human journey (no one knows for sure when), someone ate a piece of tough charred meat and said, “this is bullshit, we must find a way to make our fire roasted meats more tender (paraphrasing)”. Perhaps by accident or perhaps revealed in a hallucinogenic dream vision, one of our fore bearers had to sense to drop their meat in beer before cooking it and genius was born. We are not certain exactly when this was first done to a bird, but we know from our history of the Chicken, that the first domesticated chicken was hatched more than 8000 years ago in Southeast Asia. The earliest firm evidence of these domesticated chickens in the Mesopotamian valley dates back more than 4000 years, but they may have been squawking around the Frankincense tree far earlier than that. That means that iT is conceivable that the Last Supper may have consisted on wine, bread, and Pollo a la Brasa! Although of questionable historical voracity, this helps us sleep at night. Even tough there is no mention of Pollo a la Brasa specifically in the New Testament (or Inca Cola for that matter), we like to think Jesus had the wherewithal to have Pollo a la Brasa on his last meal with friends. As for the Americas, there is even evidence of the domesticated chicken in Chile far before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors; 1350 AD to be exact. There is nothing in the archaeological record to indicate how their arrival could have possibly predated the arrival of the Spanish, but we like to think that the Chicken had a date with destiny in Peru and simply couldn't wait for the Spanish to give them a ride.

Enough History, why the beer?

Good thing you asked that question because we were about to answer it for you. Besides the wonderful flavor that beer imparts to a meat marinade, there are greater forces at work here. Beer contains high tannin and alpha acid levels that help separate amino acids. As you may remember from your high school chemistry class, amino acids are organic compounds within living cells. Amino acids join by forming peptide bonds, a link that connects one amino acid's amino group with the carboxyl group of another amino acid. When amino acids join through peptide bonds, they form proteins. Alcohol content further aides in this process of breaking down proteins. Proteins carry out numerous functions in the structure and operation of cells, tissues and organs. Breaking proteins down is basically denaturing muscle tissue. Denature is fancy talk for “tenderizing”. But like anything, too much can be a bad thing. Over exposure to 'tenderizing compounds', can lead to very mushy meat. Keep this in mind when using beer or any other tenderizing compound on your meats.

What beers are best for Pollo a la Brasa

As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. Pollo a la Brasa marinades made from light beers and ales will burn off quickly once your meat hits the rotisserie or grill, and all that will be left is a slight beer aftertaste. Dark beers and Stouts are different in that they will leave a much richer fuller beer taste on your protein (meat), leaving flavor notes resembling oats, almonds, burnt wheat, hops, barley and grains. Try to avoid beers with high Hop content (IPAs, Bitter Ales, Black IPAs, American Brown Ales, and some stouts) as this will impart a bitter aftertaste. High alcohol beers will also tend to tenderize your meat quicker. Many craft beers will list their alchohol content on the bottle. Try to avoid 'strong' beers that are higher than 6% ABV. As no beers or Hops are created equal, use your best judgment and don't be afraid to experiment. If it doesn't work as a marinade, chances are the rest of your six pack will taste delicious as a frosty beverage. So don't get too sad.

In our Pollo a la Brasa recipes we typically call for no more than a half cup of beer. Unless you are a wasteful heathen, we're guessing you'll be enjoying at least some of that beer in beverage form. Your sadness will subside whatever the outcome of your “experimentation”. Please remember to enjoy your Pollo and your beers responsibly; no one like a chicken (or a dude) that has been marinating in too much beer. Also remember to toast those ancient pioneers....those magnificent ancient bastards that made it all possible for us to cook and eat Pollo a la Brasa with impunity.