When you work for a brewery ( a big shout out to everyone at the Liberation Brewery, Jersey ) you had better not be afraid to try cooking with beer. In Belgium, cooking with beer is as common as the French cook with wine. I think almost all of the pubs I have cooked in included deep-fried cod or haddock in a beer batter or a steak and ale pie on their menus. Although to this date only one used custard powder in the batter recipe but that as they say is another story. More recently gastropubs and bistros have started cooking with beer and include dishes such as diverse as beer bread, beer ice cream and beer can chicken. For virtually any recipe that calls for a liquid of any sort, you can substitute beer.
As a marinade for meat or poultry, beer penetrates, flavours and tenderizes. Good beer is less acidic than wine so your food can be left in your marinade longer increasing the flavour. When you are roasting or braising and beer is used to baste the food or in the basting sauce, it imparts a rich, dark colour as the sugars caramelise. So, cooking with beer is great for adding flavour to BBQ’s and slow cooked casseroles and stews.
What can I cook with Beer?
In batter, a live ( not pasteurised ) beer can be substituted for yeast and water. The result is a crisp flavoursome coating for deep-fried fish such as cod, haddock, salmon, and squid. Beer is also delicious with shellfish like Mussels, cooking with it, instead of wine. I even developed a recipe in my day job to use with Oysters. Finally, beer and cheese are perfect companions. The famous Welsh Rarebit is the classic dish of cheese, beer and Worcestershire sauce combined together on toast. Today’s recipe is another great beer and cheese combination if a little unexpected. Beer and Cheese Bisque and it is really rather delicious.
How do I use Beer?
As with wine when you boil and reduce beer you will increase some of the flavours and lose others. You will also evaporate off all of the alcohol. If you are using beer as a substitute for stock remember reducing a strong, intensely hoppy beer will leave a bitter residue. A sweetish mild or stout with little hopping will produce a fine gravy in a pie or stew. A top tip when you are cooking is to reserve a little beer and add it when the cooking is finished. This will lift and enhance the beer flavours of your dish. A final note like wine never cook with a beer you would not drink.
Some Recipe and Beer Pairings
Light Larger style Beers – are ideal for batters as the carbonation produces a light, airy result and the sugars caramelise to a deep golden colour.
IPA Indian Pale Ales – the extra hopping makes for an ideal medium for cooking mussels and seafood.
Traditional Ales – use in bread, pies, and stews, the Belgium classic Carbonnade Flamande is very similar to a Beef Bourguignon with beer substituted for wine.
Stouts and Porters – are used in rich flavoured mustards and steamed steak and oyster pudding with Guinness.
Wheat Beer – traditionally used in Waterzooi, a fish stew from the Flanders region of Belgium thickened with egg yolks and cream and the favourite of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, born in Ghent. Wheat Beer is also ideal for batter mixes.
Speciality Beers – fruity lambic beers in chocolate cakes and puddings and raspberry or sour cherry Kriek beers with roast duck and fowl.
Liberation beers are wildly available as are many other great beers like Fullers, Adnams and some wonderful microbrewery ales. I’m not even getting any freebies from anyone. Next time I see the boys from the brewery I might try for a pint.
Beer and Cheese Bisque
For the Bisque
- A large nugget Jersey Butter
- A Slug quality Olive Oil
- 2 large Onions peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 sticks Celery washed and finely sliced
- 1 clove Garlic peeled and crushed
- 250 gram strong Cheddar Cheese grated
- 2 tablespoon Plain Flour
- Half tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- Quarter teaspoon Thyme Leaves
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 bottle Liberation Ale 330 ml
- 250 ml Jersey Pouring Cream
- Sea Salt and finely ground White Pepper to taste
For the Croutes
- Parsley washed, dried and freshly chopped
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and gently cook the onion, celery, garlic, and thyme until the onion is softened but not browned - about twenty minutes. Stirring now and again to stop it catching.
- Add the flour and cook out for two to three more minutes, then add the beer, mustard, and the bay leaf and bring to the boil. Simmer for twenty minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and blitz with a hand blender. Add the cheese and cream and reheat without boiling, as this will cause the soup to split. Correct seasoning before serving.
- For the croutes, toast the bread, rub each slice with garlic, then drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle with the cheese and paprika and grill until golden and bubbling. Serve the soup with the cheese croutons on top sprinkled with parsley.