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TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Craft Beer

Cooking with beer is as old as civilization itself. The first-known written record, from the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia, is a 3900-year-old beer recipe and poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing.

Brewing is much older than the written record: Evidence of beer production in Mesopotamia dates back about 5,000 years.

Fast forward to the here and now: In American kitchens, some people regularly cook with beer. Others, even though they like beer, are more likely to cook with wine.

Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. likes to cook with both. He recently added beer-braised onions to his fall Bar Burger, and sent us his recipe plus general tips for cooking with beer:

  • Think regional. The Germans, naturally, cook their brats and other foods with their local beer. If you are making sauerkraut, cook it with some good German beer. Likewise, when making fish and chips, make your beer batter with a nice British ale.
  • Never cook with a beer you would not like to drink. This is the same with wine. Your final product can only be as good as your ingredients.
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    A cheeseburger with caramelized onions is the fall Bar Burger recipes at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House. Photo courtesy PotatoRolls.com.

  • The delicate flavors of beer will dissipate over a long cooking process. If you are cooking a stew or braised beef, for example, add a splash or two to your dish before serving, to ensure you get that flavor. (We add a few tablespoons after we take the dish off the heat.)
  • Experiment with your favorite recipes. In virtually any recipe that calls for wine or stock of any type, you could replace them with beer.
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    The American Craft Beer Cookbook pairs recipes with all the craft beer styles. Photo courtesy Storey Publishing.

     

    A FIRST STEP IN COOKING WITH BEER

    Beer braised onions are an easy way to start cooking with beer. You can add them to first courses, entrées and sides. As a start, serve them with meat or poultry, baked or mashed potatoes, beans, burgers, eggs, grains, grilled fish and sandwiches (especially great with grilled cheese, roast beef, turkey or vegetable sandwiches).

    Chef Canalizo’s fall Bar Burger includes onions braised in Ommegang Nut Brown Ale (from New York State) and melted Cheddar cheese on a Martin’s potato roll, and served with homemade potato chips. Here’s his recipe for the onions:

    RECIPE: BEER BRAISED ONIONS

    Ingredients For 4 Burgers

    For The Burger

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 4 buns (hamburger roll substitutes)
  •  
    For The Braised Onions

  • 2 white Spanish onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup brown ale* (substitute amber ale/red ale)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and toss to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are a golden color. Add the beer and herbs and continue to cook for 5 more minutes until caramelized.

    2. FORM the meat into four eight-ounce patties. Season with kosher salt and pepper and cook to the desired temperature. While the meat is cooking, toast the buns.

    3. TOP each patty with cheddar cheese and beer braised onions, place on the bun and serve.

     
    BAKE YOUR OWN HAMBURGER ROLLS

    Skip those puffy, white-bread standards and try delicious gourmet hamburger rolls. Here’s a recipe.

     
    *Brown ale is sweeter, darker and less bitter than the typical lager beer. If you can’t find an American brown ale, imported Newcastle Nut Brown Ale is typically available in stores with a good beer selection.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fall Beer Styles For Your Oktoberfest

    We held an Oktoberfest dinner this past weekend. That’s because even though the name says October, the fest begins in late September and lasts for 16 days, through early October. This year it’s September 19th through October 4th in Munich, where an annual festival has been held since 1810. (It was originally held to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, the future King Ludwig I.)

    In the beer category, seasonal beer styles are called…seasonals. For fall, full-bodied beers replace the lighter brews of summer. Three craft beer fall seasonals that immediately come to mind:

  • Harvest Ale, an American craft brew category made with German-style malts and hops, or else with fall spices.
  • Pumpkin Beer or Ale, sometimes brewed with real pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, sometimes with only the spices (allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg). Samuel Adams’ Fat Jack has more than 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel.
  • Oktoberfest Beer, or Märzen: Traditionally the first beer of the brewing season, it is an amber lager, smooth and malty and about 6% or higher ABV*.
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    In addition to these styles, other popular fall beers include:

       

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    Fat Jack brewed with more than 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.

  • Brown Ale, made with dark or brown malts that produce caramel and chocolate flavors (more).
  • Dunkelweizen, a dark version of a wheat beer (“dunkel” is the German word for dark)
  • English Pale Ale or India Pale Ale, assertively hopped and stronger (higher in alcohol—more)
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    *To be labeled Oktoberfest beer in Germany, a beer must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), which dictates a minimum of 6% alcohol (by comparison, America’s Budweiser has 5%). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.

     

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    Märzen, the classic all beer of Germany. Photo courtesy Gordon Biersch.

     

    THROW AN OKTOBERFEST PARTY

    According to us, you can hold an Oktoberfest celebration any time in October. We served an assortment of flavored chicken sausages from Bilinski German potato salad, sweet and sour red cabbage and a cheese course with hard sausage and apples. For dessert: apple sorbet with hard apple cider from Angry Orchard plus some local artisan brews.

    Here are two articles to guide your party planning:

  • Oktoberfest Party 1
  • Oktoberfest Party 2
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    See our Beer Glossary for the different types of beer and the history of beer.

     

      

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    TIP: The Right Beer Glass Makes A Big Difference

    We’re one of the many people who likes to drink beer straight from the bottle. We believed, as with sparkling wine, that the narrower the opening, the more the carbonation stays in. A cold bottle from the fridge keeps the beer colder than a room-temperature glass. And, we don’t particularly care for a foamy head.

    But according to Spiegelau, a manufacturer of fine glassware in Bavaria, Germany, we have it all wrong. You only get about 15% of the flavor of the beer when you drink it from the bottle.

    That’s because smell, not palate, is the major component of taste (and explains why you can lose your taste when you have a badly congested nose and can’t smell). You get zero aroma through the narrow neck of the beer bottle, covered by your mouth as you take each sip.

    When you pour beer into a glass, the head* releases the bubbles (carbon dioxide) that burst into aroma.

    On top of that, different types of beer benefit from different shaped glasses, engineered to bring out the special attributes of the beer (Riedel, the parent company of Spieglau, was the pioneer in developing different wine glass types).

       

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    Engineered to bring out the best in American craft beers: from left, IPA, wheat beer and stout glasses. Photo courtesy Spiegelau USA.

     

    Different regions have long made different glass shapes for their beers. Think beyond the German stein to the British pint glass; the tall, tapered Pilsner† glass; the stemmed snifter for Belgian ales and IPAs; the tankard for ales, lagers, stouts and porters; and others. See the different types of beer glasses in the chart below.

     
    *The head is produced by bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that rise to the surface. The carbon dioxide is produced during fermentation.
    †Pilsner is the English spelling of Pilsener, the German spelling. The name derives from the town of Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia in the Czech Republic, where the style was originally brewed in October 1842—a new, clear, pale golden beer created from new malts, Pilsen’s remarkably soft water, Saaz noble hops and Bavarian-style lagering. It was a sensation. The Czech spelling of the town is Plzen.

     
    CRAFT BEER GLASSES FOR SPECIFIC STYLES OF BEER

    Spiegelau has developed a Craft Beer Glass Collection, with custom-designed glasses for the three most popular American craft beer styles: IPA, Stout and Wheat Beer. Each glass is designed, according to the company, to highlight “the complexity of aromas on the nose while demonstrating the optimum beer texture, balance and flavor intensity on the palate.”

    Riedel has done this for wine glasses with great success (you won’t believe how much better the wine tastes in a specially engineered wine glass than on a generic one). Now, they’ve done the same for beer.

    An expert panel of master brewers tested multiple glass shapes before finding the optimum shape for each beer type. Here’s what resulted:

  • The IPA glass was engineered to “showcase the complex and alluring aromatic profiles of American ‘hop-forward’ IPA beers, preserve a frothy head, enhance taste and mouth feel, and present a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to savory each beer.”
  • The Stout glass is designed to “accentuate the roasted malt, rich coffee and chocolate notes that define the Stout beer style.”
  • The Wheat Beer glass (wheat beer is one of the world’s most popular styles‚, has a large, voluminous bowl to harness the delicate aromas. The mouth opening was designed to spread the beer across the palate to “enhance mouth feel and harmony of sweetness and acidity.” The “open bottom glass base drives beer and aromatic foam upward into the main bowl after every sip.”
  •  
    And you thought a glass was just a glass!

    Custom-shape beer glasses isn’t hype: It’s precision engineering and it works. Buy yourself a set and test it against what you’re currently using. We had great results with the Spiegelau glasses.

    Beer glasses are a great gift for beer connoisseurs, and other companies have gotten the custom-shape message.

     

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    Wrong! These are traditional Pilsner glasses, specifically designed to bring out the best qualities in a Pilsener beer. That means that they won’t enhance the flavors of stout (left) and amber ale (center). But wait: The Lenox Pilsner glasses are totally different—a stemmed tulip glass! Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    MORE BEER STYLE-SPECIFIC GLASSES

    Lenox has a new line of beer glasses in four styles: IPA, Pint With Crown, Stemmed Pilsner and Wheat Beer. And surprise: The shapes are totally different from conventional designs—as well as from the Spiegelau designs.

    The Pilsner is a stemmed tulip, like the traditional Belgian Ale glass. The IPA and Wheat Beer glasses are tall and narrow with a tapered waist, like the conventional Pilsner glass. The Pint With Crown is a sleeker version of the pub pint glass.

    Here’s what they say about their shapes:

  • The Stemmed Pilsner’s tulip shape “traps the rich aromas and helps maintain a frothy head. The thin flared rim places the beer evenly on the palate, elevating the overall taste experience.” Lenox also recommends the shape for stouts and dark beers.
  • The India Pale Ale glass, tall and slender, “is a perfect complement for IPAs and lighter ales. The contoured shape preserves a frothy head, while maximizing aroma and enhancing taste.”
  • The Wheat Beer glass has a large mouth and a narrow body, “making it the ideal vessel for wheat beers and most pale or blonde beers. By tipping the glass back, the aromas that characterize these brews are pushed to the nose, thus allowing the drinker to enjoy the beer’s full flavor.”
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  • The Pint With Crown is the English-style pub glass that serves an official imperial pint, approximately 20 ounces. “Ideally sized for generous pours of pale ales and lagers, this pint’s curved lip cultivates foamy heads.
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    Frankly, we bet on the precision of the Spiegelau glasses. We’ve tasted with them, and they work! There are no better glassware engineers on earth than Riedel, the parent company of Spiegelau.

    We haven’t tried Lenox or other contenders, and you can’t be sure without trying. So we’ll keep testing, and will keep you posted.
     
    CAN’T WAIT TO TRY THE GLASSES?

  • Lenox Tuscany Beer Glass Collection, set of four styles, $32.12
  • Spiegelau Tasting Glasses, set of four styles, $34.99 (includes the glasses described above plus a lager glass)
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    If you don’t care about precision engineering but like the idea of different glass shapes for different beers, try:

  • Libbey, set of six styles, $19.99 (these glasses are traditional styles, not made with modern engineering to optimize the flavors and aromas)
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    TRADITIONAL BEER GLASSES
     
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    See the original chart at DailyInfographics.eu.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Saison (Farmhouse Ale) For Summer

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    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo
    courtesy BeerObsessed.com.

     

    We’ve written before on summer beers, brewed to be refreshing on a hot day: lighter in body with a moderate A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

    Perhaps the most interesting of the lighter, hot weather styles is the saison (say-ZONE, meaning “season” in French).

    It is alternately referred to as farmhouse ale, since it originated on farmsteads in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, a French-speaking region that shares a border with France.

    Saison was traditionally brewed by farmers at the end of winter, then set aside for the summer, where it was happily consumed by field workers. Yes, beer drinking on the job was common, because before the advent of quality-tested municipal water, it was safer than many water supplies.

    But that’s not your problem: You have a good municipal water supply. Instead, think about hosting a saison tasting party.

     

    SAISON: THE FREESTYLE ALE

    Often referred to as a dry, fruity Belgian ale, the interesting thing about saison is that no two taste the same. That’s because each farmer brewed it with whatever he or she* had on hand, so there was no common recipe.

    We can’t think of any other style of beer where this is true. (See our Beer Glossary for the different styles of beer.)

    The colors vary (golden, amber, orange, from light to dark); the aromas vary (citrusy/fruity, spicy). Perhaps what they have in common is their refreshing nature.

    Another feature we happen to love to find in saisons is a mild “barnyard” character. Famous in certain Burgundy wines, it comes from from Brettanomyces yeasts that naturally exist on the farm (and can be purchased by breweries). “Brett,” as it’s often called, contributes earthy, musty aromas and some tart flavor.
     
    *As history was written by men, the role of women is often overlooked or understated. For example, farmer’s “wives” were also farmers. They may not have had the physical strength to plow the field (and certainly, some did), but they did many other essential farm tasks. And they brewed beer!

     

    IT’S PARTY TIME!

    Check your local shelves for supplies of saisons. While the classic Belgian import is Saison Dupont (a fruity and spicy style), American craft brewers make hoppy, malty, spicy, fruity and floral.

    So, the real Tip Of The Day: Collect as many as you can find and invite friends for a saison tasting. Do it now, or make it your end-of-the-season Labor Day celebration.
     
    What To Serve With Saison

  • Gougères, the delightful French cheese puffs (Gougeres Recipe)
  • Fondue with a hearty cheese like blue or Cheddar
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Spicy dishes, including Asian and Indian specialties and for a salad, peppery greens like arugula and radishes
  • Rustic French fare: coq au vin roast chicken, stew
  • Cheese: Aged or fresh chèvre, Asiago, Colby, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and “stinky” washed rind cheeses
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    Have a saison with crudités. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEER & ALE

    Although most of us use “beer” to refer to all suds, three parts of the brewing process actually define what is a beer—illustrated by the lager style—and what is an ale.

    Ales tend to be fruity-estery in aroma and flavor, while lagers are clean-tasting and crisp. These differences are created by:

    The Yeast

  • Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains, which means exactly that: The yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank (they typically rise to the top of the tank near the end of fermentation).
  • Ale yeasts tend to produce esters, chemicals that can affect the flavor of the beer.
  • Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, strains which do not typically add much flavor (the flavor comes from the other ingredients, especially hops and malt).
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    Temperature and Time

  • Ale yeasts ferment best at warmer temperatures—room temperature up to about 75°F. They ferment faster than lager yeasts.
  • Lagers ferment at colder temperatures, 46°F to 59°F, and typically ferment over longer periods of time. The combination of colder temperatures and bottom-fermenting yeast is responsible for the mild and crisp taste delivered by most lagers.
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    The Ingredients

  • Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness. Styles like India Pale Ale (IPA) are very hoppy.
  • Ales have more room for recipe experimentation than lagers; thus additional ingredients (called adjuncts) can be added during brewing. Examples: fruits (cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, etc.), sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses) and spices (allspice, coriander, clove, etc.).
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    Thanks to BeerTutor.com for the quick tutorial.

      

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    RECIPE: Beertails, Beer Cocktails

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    A Beer Mimosa. Photo courtesy Pom
    Wonderful.

     

    Can’t decide between beer or cocktails? Make beer cocktails, sometimes called beertails.

    We published our first beer cocktail recipe, Almond Ale Spritzer, five years ago. It’s time to revisit the options.

    These cocktails were developed by Bohemia Beer, made in a Pilsner style beer. But you can try other styles: Check out our Beer Glossary for the different types of beer.

    For those who prefer wine, check out winetails.

    RECIPE: BEER MIMOSA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • ¾ cup (1/2 bottle) beer, very cold
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, very cold
  • Orange slice—wedge, wheel, peel curl—for garnish
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    Preparation

    1. POUR the beer into a wine glass. Top with orange juice and stir gently.

    2. GARNISH with the orange slice—or, be creative and make a curl from the peel, as shown in the photo above.

     
    RECIPE: MICHELADA

    Michelada is a Mexican drink: beer mixed with ingredients similar to Bloody Mary mix. “Chela” is Mexican slang for a cold beer, and michelada is a portmanteau of “mi chela helada,” or my cold beer. Here’s more about the Michelada.

     

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 cut lime
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 4-½ cups Bloody Maria Mix (recipe below)
  • 3 bottles beer
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) tequila
  • Garnish: lime wedges, cherry tomatoes, pickled jalapeño slices
    and cubed cheese for garnish
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    FOR THE MICHELADA MIX

    Ingredients For 4½ Cups

  • 1 quart tomato juice
  • 2 green onions (scallions), roughly chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, de-stemmed, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1 whole lime)
  • Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
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    Beer Bloody Maria. Photo courtesy Pompeian.com | Facebook.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the Bloody Maria mix: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

    2. COMBINE the salt and pepper and spread out on a flat plate. Rub the rims of 6 tall glasses with the cut lime, then twist in the salt and pepper to coat the entire rim.

    3. POUR 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of tequila into each glass. Add ¾ cup of beer and ¾ cup of the Bloody Maria mix and mix the drinks well with a spoon.

    4. GARNISH: Place a lime wedge on the edge of each glass. Skewer a cherry tomato, cube of cheese and pickled jalapeño slice and place in glass.

      

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