Hold on to your hats folks because there are other ways to enjoy the diversity of craft beer aside from straight up in your glass. As the craft beer community continues to grow, much attention has been given to incorporating beer into your favourite foods, Craft Beer and The Beer Connoisseur even have pages devoted to recipes, and while your initial reaction may be ‘that’s a waste of great beer’ from first-hand experience I can tell you once you try cooking with beer you will open up a whole new world of possibilities.
As there is no shortage of recipes out there calling for beer and one of the easiest ways for novice chefs to get started is to simply substitute craft beer for the often generic requirement of beer in a straightforward dish like chili, stew or beer battered fish or tofu (I’m a vegan okay).
Like pairing the right food with the right beer you will soon discover cooking and baking with the right craft beer can make everything just a little bit nicer.
For me, when making Irish stew I like to take fairly flavourful ale like a red or a brown and reduce about a cup of it with some onions as a starter. Essentially the alcohol burns off leaving onions infused with a rich, earthy flavour. Or if you are making a big pot of chili grab a pale ale, a pumpkin ale or even a bock and add it to your mix to introduce a whole different spectrum of flavours. Start by splitting a bottle between yourself and your stock pot.
Stouts and dessert are just meant to go together, they just are, and there is no two ways about it. I am a big fan of chocolate cake or cupcakes improved with a rich dark coffee or chocolate based stout. A word of caution with baking though you do not want to add too much liquid and throw off the consistency of your baked goods, sub in liquid sub out other wet ingredients and err on the side of introducing a little stout you will be surprised how far the flavour goes.
Once you get the hang of it you can start adding beer to recipes that may not originally call for ale just think of complementary flavours the same way you might when you are selecting a beer to pair with any given food.
Big barrel aged beers lend themselves to reductions and marinades for meats and faux-meats alike. Try adding a sweet fruity beer or a cider to tomato soup, crisp pale ale to potato and leek soup or a floral hop bomb to a Thai or Indian inspired soup. Though I have not tried it myself, I think sour and lambic beers would make a great addition to butter cream frosting, homemade ice cream or any vanilla honeyed dessert or brunch items.
I really do not think you can go too far wrong so next time you are in your kitchen drinking a great craft beer while cooking dinner add a little splash to whatever is on the menu and see what you might cook up.
*thanks to star chef for the cooking with beer image.