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Beer candy and beer ice cream? Yes, please. We'll take both. But beer soup? We're intrigued—and next time we buy a six-pack, we're saving some beer to cook with. All over the country, chefs are finding super-tasty ways to incorporate the sudsy drink into dinner, dessert and cocktails. In honor of National Drink Beer Day, September 28, we're celebrating the many ways to not only drink beer, but eat it too.
"Beer can add a subtle complexity when used properly," said Polo Dobkin, chef and owner of Meadowsweet in Brooklyn. "I typically use beer in a very straightforward way, like substituting a hoppy ale for soda water in a tempura batter for frying, or using a dark, sweet stout for braising short ribs or making chili."
In Boston at his restaurants Clio, Uni, Toro and Coppa, chef Ken Oringer also uses a variety of brews in both sweet and savory dishes, including his beer-braised asparagus with mojama (salt-cured tuna), dried black olives and cocoa nibs, and his caramelized brioche with beer ice cream. The trick to working with beer, he says, is to pay attention when you cook it down, since reducing the beverage accentuates its characteristics. This means a strong IPA can get bitter fast, where a lambic might have strong sweet and fruity notes. But, that's part of the fun, and you can use other elements to help balance out those flavors.
"I love cooking with beer because there are so many different beers with a variety of weights, colors and textures," says Jimmy Bradley, owner of The Red Cat in New York. One thing they do at the restaurant is German beer soup (recipe below), and, in his down time, Bradley likes to make "campfire trout," a dish that involves sauteing onions and beer in a cast-iron pan over an open fire. "You can use beer as a substitute for wine, so it's a fun way to play around with recipes," he adds.
Beer and wine can also work nicely together. At Baker & Co. in New York, CJ Marsi and Markus Dorfmann combine the two to make a unique cocktail.
"At the most basic level, it's cooking, it's mixology, and you just have to find the right combinations," says Marsi. "Beer and wine are complex entities on their own, so it worked best to keep it simple."
As self-professed beer and wine snobs, the two were hesitant to combine the two drinks. But since the cafe doesn't have a full liquor license, they wanted to add something unusual and give their customers more variety to choose from in the drinks department. They started experimenting, and were happily surprised with the results. Hence, the Hopolicella cocktail (recipe below), a citrusy-fresh drink that combines local, seasonal IPA and Valpolicella Ripasso, a fruity, rich red wine from Italy.
Naturally you can't have your cocktail without a snack: Check out Floyd Eats, a line of brewer's grain crackers made with rye cider, barley stout and wheat pilsner, or Beer Flats, made with porter and pilsner.
You can also find beer in more and more desserts lately, from Beer Candies' caramels, laced with stout, lambic and lager, to affogato made with Ommegang Brewery's Chocolate Indulgence Stout at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in New York. At Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Ohio (distributed nationwide), owner Jeni Britton Bauer infuses some whimsical ice cream flavors with beer from Nashville's Yazoo Brewing Company and from Rockmill Brewery, which brews Belgian-style beers near her kitchen in Lancaster, Ohio.
Her seasonal beer flavors have included Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts and Saison with Sunflower Seeds and Golden Flax. "I don’t think of beer any differently than I think of, say, vanilla, cocoa powder, coffee, or any other ingredient. And [like those ingredients] the beer has to have a great pedigree, great flavor and character," Bauer says.
Take that as a license to experiment with new ways of mixing beer into favorite recipes and cocktails. Is there a better excuse to keep your fridge stocked with the stuff?
The Hopolicella cocktail
By CJ Marsi and Markus Dorfmann of Baker & Co.
- 3 ounces Valpolicella Ripasso wine
- 1 ounce simple shrub (white vinegar simple syrup)
- 3 ounces beer, preferably a hoppy IPA
- 5 leaves fresh basil
Shake Valpolicella Ripasso and shrub lightly with basil. Pour in glass and top off with beer.
German beer soup
By Mike Cooperman of The Red Cat
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 slices apple wood-smoked bacon, cubed
- 1/2 cup white onion, cut into small dice
- 1/2 cup leeks, washed and sliced
- Sachet of thyme, bay and black peppercorns
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 3 cups Kelso pilsner
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- Nutmeg to taste
In a four-quart pot, melt the butter on low heat, add bacon and cook until fat renders out. Add onions, leeks and sachet, and slowly sweat the ingredients until translucent. Then add salt, sugar and flour. Cook the flour for five minutes, stirring the whole time; this is going to thicken the soup.
Add beer and chicken stock and let the soup simmer until it is reduced by half. Add the potatoes and let soup cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes more. Finish the soup with crème fraîche, freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.