When you think of beer, you probably don’t visualize a piece of decadent cake, a slab of ribs, or a hearty soup, do you? Well, you may picture a frosty pint to accompany these foods – but what about cooking with that pint of liquid gold?
Even better yet, why not sip your brew while you cook or bake? Add a splash here and there as you chop, sauté, mix, and dance to your favourite beat. Just as music and a crisp wheat beer enhance your cooking experience, this fermented treat does the same to food. It’s not just a liquid to guzzle, my friend – it’s a culinary ingredient in its own right.
We know that beer has been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as Ancient Egypt. Of course, you and I weren’t there – but Egyptians left us clues and images, depicting their way of life. Learning from the world’s first known brewers – the Babylonians, Sumerians, and Assyrians, the Egyptians provided the best documentation regarding ancient brewing practices. Just imagine their brewing setup – mind boggling.
Beer most often accompanied bread, fish, and vegetables as a staple food source itself, but it may have also been used for cooking purposes. All of you beer-loving history buffs, I urge you to check out the importance of beer to the ancient Egyptians.
For all our fellow homebrewers, you can brew a close replica of ancient Egyptian beer. Found on the Homebrewers Association website, their Pharaoh Ale recipe is a leap back into time.
From the days of King Tut to modern stout-braised beef tacos, beer continues to leave its impressive mark on the world. With the craft beer industry booming, more and more people are becoming interested in what beer has to offer. Obviously, drinking a freshly brewed dry-hopped IPA is never a bad idea, but you’re not limited to beer as a beverage. Start using it as an ingredient in the kitchen.
Being from a German family, beer is no stranger to our fridges and kitchen pots. Oh man, Biersuppe mit Knödeln – or ‘beer soup with dumplings.’ It just makes sense! Sausages braised in beer is also a no brainer. Below are miniature sausage sandwiches, which were featured in our free autumn magazine issue. If you haven’t already, you can sign up in order to receive your free food and drink magazine with each passing season. Braised in ‘And Boom Gose the Dynamite’ by Beau’s All Natural, these sandwiches were a way to celebrate Oktoberfest – along with potato salad, sauerkraut, and far too much beer.
Still not convinced that beer belongs in the kitchen?
Just think about this for a second… how often do you hear of recipes that include wine? When cooking a stew or making a sauce, you don’t think twice to grab a bottle of red or white – why dismiss beer?
To be fair, there are some similarities. Just as you use full-bodied reds when cooking beef and lamb, you generally use darker, richer beers as well – porters, brown ales, and stouts. Same goes for white wine and lighter beers, such as lagers, wheat beers, and pilsners – which are generally used within chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes. Of course, there’s always exceptions – so no need to be too rigid.
I guess the concept of cooking with beer isn’t that foreign. I’ve never met anyone who isn’t willing to go face first into a big ol’ basket of beer-battered fish n’ chips, have you? It’s one of those treats you get once or twice a year. Considering we just got back from England, we’ve already hit our yearly fish and chip quota. Dammit. Couldn’t resist fish and chips with a little curry sauce.
If you’re like us, the enthusiasm that you have towards crispy and beer-hugged fish can also be experienced when chowing down on a piece of stout-infused chocolate cake or an ale-brined turkey. Start thinking about beer as an ingredient, not just as an end-of-the-week reward…
… okay, we realize that Thursday is not the end of the week – you caught us. But hey ho, when drank in moderation, craft beer actually has health benefits. So, take that Thursday – you’re practically Friday anyways.
So, what does beer add to dishes? How does it impact the flavor, aroma, and even the density of food? From nutty to floral, bitter to sweet, beer has a lot of potential flavor profiles to offer. Whether you’re whipping up some saison blueberry pancakes; glazing a handful of pilsner and honey-coated carrots; or baking porter cupcakes for someone special, the addition of beer can be a game charger.
Like this slow-roasted pork sandwich with apple chili chutney. Uh huh – cooked the pork with half a bottle of German-style Dunkelweizen for nearly five hours. To accompany this spicy sandwich, Mad Tom IPA by Muskoka Brewery joined the party. Perfection.
Here are a few key tips to remember when you’re cooking with beer:
- There’s no one that loves IPAs as much as we do, but unfortunately, they’re not always the best option to cook with. Hoppy beers tend to become fairly bitter as they reduce. Generally speaking, we use overly hoppy beers in dressings and marinades. With that being said, if a recipe only needs a splash of beer – a well-crafted IPA can add another dimension of flavour.
- For desserts, fruity recipes benefit from the use of wheat beers, pilsners, and Belgian-style beers. With chocolate, go for a rich stout or porter.
- Although you’re not technically pairing a dish with a beer, still focus on flavours that work well together. If you were making a lemon brushed chicken, focus on beers that would highlight the flavours you’re aiming to achieve – look for hints of herbs and spices, as well as beers that have a citrus undertone. Just play around with flavours and ideas – have fun with it.
Within our more recent winter issue, we featured Imperial Stout brownies with a Maple Butter Tart Ale caramel. More specifically, Bolshevik Bastard by Nickel Brook Brewing and the award-winning maple delight was by Sawdust City Brewing. Honestly, they’re not difficult to make and they’re uuuuunreal. We made a massive batch before we left for England and froze them. Upon our return to Canadian soil, the snow sent us straight into a stout brownie coma.
There you have it – beer in the kitchen, it’s not just for drinking, folks! Get cookin’ with this versatile ingredient. Time to venture into new territory, cheers!