Cooking with Craft Beer could refer to the practice of enjoying a frosty glass while you prepare dinner, or it could mean incorporating beer into your favorite recipe. To clarify, the latter is the focus of this post. The Craft beer Industry is booming and nowhere is this more evident than in West Michigan. In fact, Grand Rapids, Michigan won the title of Beer City USA, in national polls, for two years in a row and was voted Best Beer Town by USA Today readers. I may even go so far as to declare that the last cold, grey weeks of February and into early March, mark craft beer season in West Michigan. This weekend, February 26-27, celebrates the 11th Annual Beer Festival, happening just north of Grand Rapids in Comstock Park. This time of year is also when many breweries release their seasonal brews, like Bell’s Oberon, or limited release beers like Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). People have been known to actually camp out on the sidewalk of Founders, in blustery Michigan weather no less, to ensure they get a cut of the limited KBS supply. That’s hardcore!
You do not have to be a beer drinker to appreciate beer as a recipe ingredient though. The approach of cooking with beer is similar to using herbs and spices. In that beer simply heightens and enhances the flavors of your dish. Just as garlic and basil make marinara sing, beer can do the same. So how do know which beer to choose for your dish? Start by getting familiar with which beer flavors compliment certain foods. Click here for a handy pairing guide that I find helpful. The general idea is to choose a beer that you would drink with your favorite foods and then do the same when choosing one for cooking.
For example, nutty brown ale is the perfect beer to drink with pork. So, I take advantage of this natural pairing and use brown ale to intensify my Pork and Winter Vegetable Pie. It gives the gravy an intensity that you cannot get from broth alone. In addition to my creations, I am sharing two great recipes that use beer; both are easy and considered a nice introduction to cooking with craft beer. The first is an Apple Cider and Beer Braised Pot Roast, from the Foodie with Family blog. The second is for a Beer Brined Roast Chicken from The Beeroness blog. In my upcoming blog posts, I will be unveiling two of my savory craft beer recipes, Mole Stout Chicken Tacos and Pork Pie with Winter Vegetables. Stay tuned!
While beer pairs well with savory dishes, it is also great in some sweet dishes. Have you tried one of the adult ice cream beer floats popular on many pub menus? Surprisingly delicious! My favorite pairing is a dark, thick porter with chocolate. The beer makes the chocolate more “chocolaty”, if you know what I mean. I developed a chocolate cupcake recipe that uses Bell’s Porter. This is no ordinary chocolate cupcake! Come back for my step-by-step directions.