Cooking with beer

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First Posted: 9/16/2013

Treating oneself to the simple pleasures in life is a luxury that we can all afford and a true key to happiness. Great beer, enjoyed in reasonable quantities, is certainly one of these. A well-paired dish only enhances the pleasure factor, one complimenting the other. However, to improve the pleasure factor even more, there is a movement afoot to cook with your beer for a fully engrossing pleasurable experience.

Sure, we have all had a beer while cooking in the kitchen or on the grill, but this movement is far more than that and even moves beyond the traditional beer-battered fish and chips or Guinness stew, not to knock these traditional and wonderful foods. However, the current interest in craft beer goes hand in hand with the rising interest in artisanal food, so it would be expected for the two interests to intersect. This naturally gives rise to new and exciting dishes that combine beer and food, and while there is still room for many traditional meals, there is a vast array of new dishes available to the consumer.

Many breweries have taken to incorporating fantastic restaurants into their tasting rooms, or as separate institutions within the brewery – breweries such as Stone, whose World Bistro & Gardens in California offers such fantastic dishes as garlic, cheddar, and Stone Ruination IPA soup; Stone Pale Ale and garlic stir-fried Brussels sprouts; and Stone Arrogant Bastard battered onion rings. A bit closer to home in Cooperstown, N.Y., is Brewery Ommegang, whose Belgian-themed café offers such delicious choices as frites with Abbey Ale and cumin ketchup and mustard with Witte Ale and honey or the magnificent Three Philosophers chocolate fondue. These are just some samples of wonderful combinations that can arise from combing beer with food.

However, this movement extends far beyond the reaches of brewery restaurants and continues right at home with a vast amount of recipes available to make delightful dishes using your favorite craft beer. If you’re confused about where to start, you can simply search the Internet or find a wonderful array of cooking with beer cookbooks now available, such as “The Best of American Food & Beer,” “The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.,” or “The American Craft Beer Cookbook.” These are all great starting points to get cooking and contain a great abundance of general information about beer as well.

When creating dishes, there are a few things to keep in mind, but as with all cooking, experimentation is not only suggested, it is required. One basic thing to keep in mind, though, is to keep like flavors with like flavors; that is if you are looking to create a dish with spices, try using a beer with such a profile, like an IPA, or if you want a more chocolate base, say for a dessert, a stout or a porter are the perfect starting points. Now of course there are exceptions to these, but for a base point to start from, these ideas work best until you become more acclimated to cooking with beer.

Another great tip is to use darker beer with red meat and lighter beers with lighter meats; a similar opinion falls true for cooking with wine as well. However, cooking a hamburger made with grass-fed beef and mixed with an imperial stout will trump anything that red wine could do in that situation.

So, are you ready to get adventurous now and get cooking? Well, in keeping with the impending fall season and with the endless amount of pumpkin beers available to us now, I listed several recipes on my blog,, using pumpkin ale as the beer base. Recipes such as pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin beer bread, and pumpkin ale cinnamon rolls are all listed and just waiting for you to give them a try.

While food and beer have long had a lovely relationship with one another, this new foodie dimension that has been added to this relationship has truly opened some tasty doors into new frontiers for cooking. So get into your kitchen and get cooking – just don’t drink all your ingredients before you finish!