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3 Cheers for Beer

Tap into the recipe-enhancing possibilities of the "other" bubbly
3 Cheers for Beer

Cooking with wine may be common practice, but many cooks overlook the flavor-enhancing potential of beer in all its myriad varieties. Lagers, pilsners, pale ales, brown ales, stouts—each offers a distinctive blend of grains, yeast, water, and flavorings, and can be used in recipes for results that range from subtle to surprising. Add a splash of dark beer to a black bean chili, and you’ll create a Southwestern stew with rich, almost meaty undertones. Simmer a fruity ale down to a syrup and you’ll have a salad dressing ingredient that rivals aged balsamic vinegar. Bake a cake with stout and you’ll see why beer aficionados often refer to the brew’s flavor as “chocolaty.”

To get you started, we’ve put together a selection of recipes that showcase all the possibilities beer has to offer. Try them, and before you know it, you’ll be popping the top of a can or bottle of beer as often as you pull open a wine cork when cooking.

Is Your Brew Veg?

What prevents a beer from being 100 percent veg? It’s the filtering process used to clarify the fermented liquid into a clear, drinkable beverage.

Different agents are used to clarify beer, including isinglass (extracted from fish) and gelatin. Vegetarian and vegan-friendly beers are clarified with seaweed extract (carrageenan or Irish moss) or by using an artificial substance called Polyclar.

These sites offer information on animal-derived ingredients used to make beer, how various beer brands are made, or if they are vegan or vegetarian: beeradvocate.com; barnivore.com; veganconnection.com/veganbeer.htm.

A Cook’s Guide to Beer

Lager Light, crisp, and dry, this basic brew can be used in place of white wine to deglaze sautés or replace broth in a sauce.

Pilsner Slightly sweet and yeasty, pilsner is an all-purpose brew for cooking.

Dark Ale Added to hearty stews and sauces, this caramel-colored, fruity beverage lends rich, meaty flavor.

Pale Ale The bittersweet flavor of pale ale tames the pungent flavors of cabbage and leafy greens.

Porter This strong, dark ale is particularly good with egg and cheese dishes.

Stout The darkest of dark ales is sweet and rich—an ideal addition to desserts and dessert sauces.

Fruit Beers or Ales These flavor-infused brews can add a hint of fruit to sauces, stews, and braised dishes.

March 2009 p.76

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Ale-Braised Cabbage with Leeks

Ale-Braised Cabbage with Leeks

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This classic British side dish is given gastropub treatment by using red cabbage and delicate leeks, rather than green cabbage and yellow onions. Finishing with fresh dill and lemon juice gives the recipe a lighter, spring-like quality.

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Arugula Salad with Fruit Ale Dressing

Arugula Salad with Fruit Ale Dressing

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This recipe makes a lot of dressing; extra can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to two months and used on other salads.

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Ginger-Chocolate Stout Cake with Sweetened Sour Cream

“Chocolate cake for grown-ups” is how VT taste testers described this dessert. 

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Black Bean Chili with Dark Ale

Black Bean Chili with Dark Ale

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A slightly sweet, dark beer tempers the acidity of the tomatoes and the spiciness of the chipotle chiles in this easy recipe.

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Tempeh in Hearty Mushroom-Lager Sauce

Tempeh in Hearty Mushroom-Lager Sauce

This filling entrée tastes like it’s been simmered for hours instead of just 20 minutes. To sweeten the slightly bitter sauce, stir in 1 Tbs. agave nectar with the mustard and use 11/2 cups beer and 1 cup water. Serve over rice or Mashed Potatoes with Chives.

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