Cheers to Cooking with Beer
When it comes to enjoying a cold brew, most of us are happiest sipping it from a frosty mug. Since a drinkable temperature is usually key, “beer” and “warm” don’t seem to go hand in hand.
However, using this malty beverage as a recipe ingredient can elevate many dishes in surprisingly complex ways. We’ve done a little research—and a lot of tasting—and put together a selection of our favorite ways to cook or bake with beer, including some delicious recipe suggestions and gluten-free beers to try.
FIRST, MATCH THE BEER STYLE TO THE DISH
You could easily classify beer in three general categories: light, dark and fruity. But aroma, bitterness and even spices all affect the flavor, even if you’re cooking with it. This is why an everyday light beer won’t add to the taste complexity of a dish quite like some other styles. Follow this quick guide for deciding which types of beers to pair with which kinds of dishes:
- Wheat beers, Hefeweizens and Lambics: They work well with lighter vegetables, chicken and seafood.
- Ales, Porters and Stouts: These are better for heartier meats like pork, beef, duck and lamb.
- Lagers and IPAs: Their hoppier flavors work well with hearty breads.
- Pilsners, Pale Ales and Wheat Beers: Good options when making rich cheese dips.
- Lambics: The light and fruity essence is excellent with fruity desserts—think crisps or sorbets.
- Stouts and Porters: The big, deep flavors work best with rich chocolate desserts.
Here are our top choices for types of dishes that benefit from a cup of beer, but we encourage you to count it as a very versatile ingredient and experiment freely!
Beer bread makes more sense than you might think as it simply substitutes the baker’s or active dry yeast with a hearty helping of beer. The live yeast in the beer acts as a leavening agent in the batter, and leaves behind an earthy aroma and flavor. The result is a dense, tender and chewy loaf that complements soups, stews and saucy foods. (Tip: the addition of baking soda or baking powder will lighten it up a bit.) See for yourself—bake a loaf of our easy Parmesan-Dill Beer Bread in a Pyrex® Easy GrabTM Loaf Dish and just try not to eat the whole thing!
And since we cannot live on bread alone, we are very thankful for pizza. Especially pizza with beer. Use it in our flaky pizza crust, and then pour a glass for yourself, too.
PLEASE YOUR CHEESE
Just add beer. This truly may be the only way to improve upon the pure awesomeness of cheese. For an incredibly easy and addictive game-day (or any day, really) cheese dip, follow this simple recipe.
Start with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk in a saucepan over medium heat until a roux starts to form, then add in 1 cup of beer. (We like a Pale Ale or Pilsner.) As the roux thickens and the beer reduces, add 2 cups of your favorite cheese, like Cheddar or Gruyère, and 1 cup of whole milk. Stir as the cheese melts and the sauce thickens. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve it piping hot, in all its creamy, gooey, beer-y glory.
BRING YOUR BATTER UP!
The best fried fish, the kind where the fish is incredibly moist and tender and the crust has the lightest, airiest crunch, is most likely made with a beer batter. The rapid evaporation of the alcohol helps the batter set and dry more quickly, the carbonation helps create the thin, crisp texture, and as for the flavor? Well, do you gobble or savor your fried fish? Light beer is fine if you tend to shovel in this shore perfection, but those of you who stop to chew should play around with different beer styles to find your ultimate flavor fix. As in, for example, our first featured recipe:
HEFEWEIZEN BEER-BATTERED FISH
We created a sassy citrusy batter using a Hefeweizen beer, which is a tart and spicy unfiltered wheat ale. This recipe calls for tilapia fillets, but you can try the batter with other mild fish like cod, haddock or walleye. It’ll also give a sweet kick to onion rings, fries or mushrooms.
GET THE RECIPE
DO A BREW BARBECUE
When boiled and reduced, beer adds a delicious dimension to BBQ sauce. Experiment with different beer styles to bring out the best in your grilled meat.
CRAFT DRAFT DESSERTS
When baking something sweet, choose Stout. The dark-roasted malty flavors complement chocolate especially well. Enjoy the depth and intensity in a batch of our Pub Cupcakes or mix up the second of our featured recipes:
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE
Rich doesn’t have to be complicated! This fantastic five-ingredient wonder relies on the unbelievably good connection between Stout beer and chocolate. The recipe makes enough to share, but you could also just grab a fork and wander away with it…
GET THE RECIPE
GRAB A FEW GLUTEN-FREE CHOICES
Swapping out regular beer for a gluten-free option can make your recipes friendly to any crew. Here are some of our favorites:
- Dogfish Head Tweason’ale (6.0% alc.) With strong notes of strawberry and honey, this sweeter gluten-free beer is a great choice for those looking for something in a Lambic style. Recipe Suggestions: vinaigrettes, marinades, desserts
- Ipswich Ale Celia Saison (6.5% alc.) Similar to a Hefeweizen, the Celia Saison is a flavorful beer made with Belgian yeast, orange peel and Celia hops. Sweet and spicy, this one is a good mid-level beer for those who want something flavorful, yet not too fruity. Recipe Suggestions: vinaigrettes, breads, cheese dips
- Harvester IPA No. 2 (6.8% alc.) This super-hoppy Harvester IPA has a stronger flavor that most people expect when drinking beer. It’s one of the few gluten-free options that tastes as good as the regular stuff. (They also brew a gluten-free Pale Ale and Dark Ale.) Recipe Suggestions: breads, dips, barbecue, fish
Enjoying a tall cold glass of beer with a friend is hard to top, but if you start cooking and baking with it, it’s likely you’ll have plenty of company lining up to sample the goods. Bottoms up!
YOUR TURN: Which would you try first—beer bread, beer cheese or beer dessert?