Cooking with beer #1 - introduction

Nov 05, 2015 by Stephane

Let’s crack open a beer to celebrate the start of a new series of blog posts about “Cooking with beer”! 

Rule #1 - Don’t use too much beer

When cooking with beer, the best results are obtained by using the right amount of beer. The proportions should be correct in the sense that you shouldn’t use too much beer or you stand the risk of the taste overpowering the dish. This means you should add the beer gradually so that it doesn’t form the “backbone” of the recipe but rather adds subtile touches of its taste to the recipe. Beers like trappists can be used in stews and recipes with poultry, to enrich the dish by adding some beer 10 - 15 min before the end of the cooking process. 

By adding too much beer too quickly, the dish will taste hoppy and bitter, which is not what you want. If the dish does end up tasting too much of beer you can correct this by adding some sugar, some fruits with high sugar content like: raisins, dates, figs or plums. Vegetables can also be added, especially sweet tasting ones like leek, carrot, onion or red bell peppers. These vegetables also have a strengthening effect on all the flavors in the dish. 

Make sure you don’t cook the dish for too long after having added the beer. This could also result in bitter tastes. It comes down to experimenting with quantities and cooking times, tasting the results and then adjusting your recipe. This is part of the fun in cooking with beer.

Which types of beer can I use?

Almost all types of Belgian beer can be used in the kitchen. White beers like Hoegaarden, Celis White, Blanche de Namur and Watou’s White beer are all made up of about 30 - 50% wheat, mixed with barley. They have a light yellowish color and some have added coriander (cilantro), dried orange peel and various other herbs & spices. This gives them a pleasant fruity, sweet or slightly sour taste which is useful in the kitchen.

Fruity beers like kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry) were traditionally created by adding ripening and fermenting fruits on already brewed beer. This is often used in lambic beers, typical of the area around Brussels. These beers are often quite sour and unfiltered. Today there’s a lot of fruity beers that were created by simply adding fruit juice, fruit extracts or mashed fruit to the beer. Most fruity beers have a low alcoholic content of around 2.5 to 5.5% and are especially useful in the creation of salad dressings. Desserts can also benefit from the addition of fruity beers.

Now going on to the kinds of beers that are available in our webshop - let’s start with abbey beers. These kinds of beer are characterised by their full taste and slightly bitter and sometimes sweet after taste. Often these beers are categorised along with “dubbel” or dark brown beers. Alcoholic content is often between 5 - 8% and most of these beers have tastes reminiscent of raisins, candy sugar, figs and licorice. The most famous abbey beers are Leffe, Affligem, Grimbergen, Tongerlo, Maredsous, etc. Although these beers used to brewed in actual abbeys, nowadays large corporate breweries are licensed to do the job. When cooking, abbey beers are an obvious and worthy alternative to trappist beers, which by definition are still brewed in abbeys.  

Many other kinds of beer can be used in the kitchen - stay tuned for my next post where we describe how to cook with trappist beers