Best Beer in Food

My partner likes to separate his beer and his food. I’m in favour of mixing them. One day we will find common ground.

In the meantime, I will continue to feed him experimental dishes of spicy sautéed spaghetti squash doused with Big Rock’s McNally’s Irish Ale, or Smoked Porter Ancho-braised pork shoulder chops… and he will eat them… and pretend to like them… if he knows what’s good for him.

That said, who can deny the enticement of Guinness Irish stew or halibut coated in beer batter, assaulted by hot oil and sold to you by a gap-toothed “chipper”?

I have had good success using a German hefeweizen as part of the liquid in a dessert crepe.

The effervescence in the beer lightens the body of the batter and gives it a certain je ne sais quoi, or, Ich weiss nicht… (it sounds better in French).

For deep-fried food things, you can make a heavenly light tempura batter using a lager instead of water. The carbonation will aerate the mix and make it lighter and crispier.

When cooking with beer, it’s better to go with the beers that don’t have assertive hop bitterness.

Bitterness in beer is expected and welcomed; bitterness from beer injected into food has more of a niche following—e.g., people who love 99 percent Lindt chocolate, endive, and sludge-black “cowboy” coffee.

It might have something to do with the fact that many poisonous plants have bitter tasting alkaloid compounds that our ancestors learned about the hard way. So, learning to like bitterness is a journey of rebelling against our natural instinct, not helped by the processed food industry constantly pushing sugar down our throats.

Lagers can provide a subtle beeriness and moistness to foods without overwhelming them.

Even my seldom-drinking mother would make beer can chicken on occasion. Ingredients are one beer can, one whole chicken, salt and a barbecue.

The visual is very redneck, but the result is delicious, mouth-watering, succulent, smoky bird meat, with just a hint of bisphenol A. Just kidding… sort of. Some beer cans may have a thin layer of this stuff lining the inside of the can.

Many Belgian beers are good for cooking, due to low amounts of bittering hops, residual sweetness and exotic, spicy flavours.

The people at the Unibroue brewery in Chambly, Quebec (now owned by Sapporo), post a saliva-inducing French onion soup recipe on their website featuring their Belgian tripel, La Fin du Monde.

This rich, ambrosiac beer is mixed with port, red wine, beef broth and a pile of onions, creating what sounds like a sanctified quintigamist marriage. It’s definitely on my “to make” list.

I know mead isn’t exactly beer. (It’s really just fermented honey.) But it tends to get lumped in with beer in the fermentable world.

Mead is difficult to find around these parts, but read any Norse story (think Beowulf) and you’ll hear plenty about the great mead halls filled with raucous Vikings gnawing on reindeer flesh, fighting marauders and pounding down steins of mead.

There are many variations of mead, from very dry to very sweet and from still to petillant (barely effervescent) to sparkling.

Sweet mead tastes like rich viscous refined honey sugar water that will knock you on your butt cheeks if you aren’t paying attention.

It’s great mixed into cocktails or added to marinades in the place of honey or maple syrup and… of course, it provides liquid courage for the endless work of plundering and pillaging.

The enlightened among us will have already heard of the invention of Beeramisu. I confess, I was not one of them. I stumbled upon it through the magic of the internet.

Tiramisu is a traditional Italian dessert made with ladyfingers dipped in coffee and topped with a mix of whipped eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese.

Beeramisu is a slight variation with ladyfingers soaked in Guinness instead of coffee. Of all the beer substitutions in food, this one makes a lot of sense to me.

I would rather be lulled into happy slumber after a multi-course Italian meal than be hit with a coffee buzz that forces me to stay up and buy late-night infomercial snuggies and change sorters…

But that’s just me.

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