Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Cooking With Beer

It’s fairly common, once your doors of perception have been opened to the real flavors and aroma of beer, that appreciation widens to food…..or vice-versa. Most commonly, beer lovers are concerned with pairing the right beer with the right dishes. If you look in most cookbooks however, you will receive generic descriptions for any recipe calling for beer. Most of the time it will say “1 can/bottle of beer” or if you are lucky it may actually specify, “1 bottle of dark beer”. But if you are reading this, you already know that beer is more than just light, amber, or dark. Even comparing similar styles between different brewerys provide different flavors, sugar content, levels of bitterness ect. I was very happy with the announcement from the Brewing Network, that they were going to be having a show hosted by Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. Now I am no Sean Paxton, my level of cooking skill and interest takes a  more low brow approach. But, just because I have no interest in cooking five-star type of meals, does not mean that you cannot adapt the same approach Sean Paxton uses for beer and food, in more common food types that you like to cook. I am an avid low and slow BBQ fan, quite often taken 10+ hours on making a smoked pork butt or beef brisket. I also love grilling steaks, burgers, brats, and chicken. The trick is to create a marriage between the two, the hard part is deciding what and where to incorporate beer into the equation. Sometimes it’s a pairing, and sometimes it’s using beer as an ingredient. What I loved most about the first episode of the show, was it explained exactly that, and I knew from that point this latest edition of the Brewing Networks line-up was going to be easily understood by anyone who has even the slightest interest in cooking will be able to pick up something.

So before I proceed, I just want to give a you a bit of my cooking background, all of which is as an amateur. Now, I admit, listening to that episode of The Home Brewed Chef inspired me to try something they had on the show, and that cooking experience I had today inspired me to write about it. But I have been cooking with beer for quite some time, just not at Sean’s level.  I did however, receive some email comments from Sean on my other site (which I have not transferred my food section over to this blog yet) that he liked what I was presenting and it could get people on the right track with some simple cooking with beer recipes. Coming from him that was a big compliment. Many of his ideas on his site, were incorporated into the type of cooking I do. For example, I have my variation of his Chocolate Ancho Chili Spice rub, into a variation that uses Chipotle peppers instead and a bit of brown sugar instead of organic sugar. I have also made his Stout BBQ Sauce as well. Also, I entered a cooking with beer contest, and I ended up as a top 10 finalist, but had to back out of the final cook-off because I just started a new job four days before the final cooking, and I didn’t want to ask off, four days after starting. At the end of this article, I will provide that recipe I had. But for now, I will talk a bit about cooking with beer, and give a simple recipe based off an idea that they talked about on the first episode of The Home Brewed Chef.

In my experience (and from what it sounds like others do too) is when cooking with beer you want to consider three things. The flavor of the dish you are creating, the style and flavor of the beer you want to use, and how these two forces will collide. As an example, you wouldn’t want to use a Heffeweizen in a hearty sauce, because it may be completely lost in the dish. If you are like me and light a slight sweetness to the sauce, you will want to find a slightly sweet, and more full flavored beer. Something that can stand up to the boldness of the tomatoes and beef,  yet not overtake the dish or come across as bitter. I like to use an English style old ale. I have found for me, the character of the beer comes through well, and the slightly wine-like vineous flavors mesh well with tomatoes. Same holds true for other aspects to consider, for example when pairing grilled ribeyes with an American amber ale, you could incorporate something with that amber ale into a side dish, or sauce that would go with that steak. That is where I was interested in an off the cuff idea that Sean Paxton shot out during that first show. You could take a roasty stout, where the roasted flavors of the grain may pair well with a grilled steak, and take some onions and shallots, saute them, then use a broth and the beer, reduce it to a sauce and pour it over the steak. It sounded so good I had to try it. So here is my version of that idea below. I used a smoked imperial porter with Chipotle peppers (Benji’s Smoked Imperial Porter with Chipotle Peppers from Tyranena to be exact) that I had in my beer cellar instead of a stout, but that’s what is great about cooking, you can change anything to fit your taste. Here was mine.

Here are the Ingredients, 1 cup of Benji's Smoked Imperial Porter with Chipotle Peppers, 3 shallots, 1 medium sweet onion, 1 garlic clove (not visible), butter, and 1 can of beef broth.

I sauteed the onions, shallots, and garlic until they started to clear.

I then added the broth and beer and continued to cook until reduced to a medium thick sauce.

These are just tenderloin steaks with hop salt and pepper. I have a hard time smothering fatty steaks like ribeyes. But tenderloins don't have much flavor on their own.

Grill 'em how you like 'em. I like medium myself.


Once the sauce is reduced to where you like it, plate the steak, let it rest, then just before eating spoon the sauce and onions on it. This was very delicious. I ended up serving it with pan roasted potatoes I also drizzled with the beer.

So that was it. When cooking with beer, you want to think about how the flavors are going to meld with your food. Will the bitterness go well in that cake? Probably not, but a great raspberry lambic may. Another think to remember is that when you are cooking with the beer, some of the water will evaporate, so you may also concentrate the flavors, this can work to both your advantage, or it will work against you. So if you are cooking with a hoppy IPA, and you concentrate that bitterness, you better have a bit of sweetness in the dish to try to balance out that part of the beers contribution.

Cooking Brats tip

Living here in Wisconsin, we have a strong German heritage. Brats, among other sausages are very popular. But in summer, brats are everywhere. People often par boil their brats in beer, or soak them afterwards in beer. Normally this is just some Bud, Miller, or Coors. But, this really doesn’t do much. The skin of the brat prevents the liquid from really penetrating the brat in that short amount of time. If anything, you get the aroma of the pot while it is boiling or steeping afterwards. But when you eat the brat, 9 times out of 10 you don’t get much flavor from the beer. I did find that if you soak the brats in beer 24 hours prior to grilling, you do get a lot of beer flavor. I like to use Capital Brewery’s Wisconsin Amber as my soaking beer of choice. Also as a side note, a true brat cooker will never par boil them. They should be cooked raw on the grill. But I promise you that if you soak them for 24 hours, then grill them, you will get many compliments on how much beer flavor your brats have.

Pub Skirt Steak Fajitas with Beer Braised Onions and Peppers

With that, here was my Pub Style Skirt Steak fajita’s recipe I promised earlier in this post. This is the one that earned me a top 10 spot, and I would put money on winning the thing I would have been able to compete. In all honesty, the amounts are estimated, I normally don’t cook with exact measurements. So play around with it and suite it to your taste.

Skirt Steak
1-2 lb skirt steak (Fat trimmed)
1 cup of Sprecher Pub Ale (1/4 cup reserved for grilling)
2 limes (you will need the juice from 1 and 1/2 limes or about 3 tablespoons for the marinade and the other half a lime for grilling)
1 teaspoon of cumin
3 dashes of Tobasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Place the skirt steak in a gallon freezer bag, along with the beer, 3 tablespoons of lime juice lime juice, cumin, and tobasco sauce. Allow to marinade overnight. If in a hurry, allow to marinade at least 3 hours before grilling.

When ready to grill combine 1/4 cup of Pub Ale and juice from 1/2 lime into a bowl or pour into a clean spray bottle.

Remove steak from the marinade and lightly salt and pepper the meat. Place it on a medium high heat grill and grill using direct heat. For an average skirt steak grill for about 5-6 minutes per side, while spritzing with the beer and lime mixture (or basting if you used a bowl)

When done, allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into 1/4″ slices. Cut the skirt steak at an angle.

Serve on warm tortillas with the below onion and pepper mixture.

Beer Braised Onions and Peppers

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sliced red onion sliced thin and in half
1 small red pepper grilled then cut into strips
1 small green pepper grilled then cut into strips
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of Sprecher Pub Ale
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Melt butter under medium heat (use a side burner on the gas grill if you have it), then add onions and sugar cook until the onions soften. Stir in the ale, vinegar, grilled peppers, and salt. Cook over medium heat while stirring until all the liquid has nearly all evaporated.

Serve with the above flank steak on tortillas (This mixture also goes great with brats. I soak my brats in beer 24 hours prior to grilling, do not par boil. Just grill them. Serve with this same pepper and onion mixture)