You've ale taps a plenty, but have you considered putting beer on the food menu and not just the drinks list?
Beer goes in food and not just with it. So move over wine snobs, we’re about to break the social norm of cooking with alcohol, and we think you’re going to like it.
Beer battered fish has long been a staple for many pubs, but that’s about as far as it goes. Until now. Pub and brewery operator Brewhouse & Kitchen is among those tapping into the potential of the beer tap, by launching a food menu with beer as a key ingredient.
And someone who has been plugging beery-dishes for a while is Craft Beer Channel founder, Jonny Garrett. He’s added 30-plus recipes to his YouTube account (see them here), which all include the good stuff. Plus, he has started to sell his beery-concoctions at food markets.
We get the very best advice and tips from him, so you can add some hop to your food offer.
But first, why cook with beer?
Well for a start it can complement a dish just as fantastically as a glug of red wine.
Like wine, every beer is different. The right brew can add a rich, earthy taste to stews or a moist chewiness to a loaf of bread. It’s an exciting ingredient, which when used successfully can transform your offer.
1. Where I you start?
Jonny says: “Look at the colour of the beer, then the bitterness of it, and then the tasting notes. If you want to make a roast beef with a marmite richness, go for a porter. If you want a lighter flavour, you could go for a lighter, caramel beer.”
There’s no rules, but get tasting, pull out the key flavour notes and match them to a dish respectively.
2. How do I decide what dishes should contain beer?
Not everything on your menu should be packed with booze. Think carefully about what could actually benefit from beery flavours.
“When we come up with videos for the channel, we find a recipe with liquid in it already and see if we can replace that with beer. But obviously it’s important that it still benefits the dish,” says Jonny.
“For example I’ve got a beer pancake recipe (below) which creates the lightest and fluffiest batter. You replace milk with a saison beer, which adds fizz and lightness to the batter, plus a cinnamon flavour profile.”
3. Is it pretty foolproof?
There’s no hiding the damage caused by cooking with the wrong beer. So unless you want to cause customer’s tongues to shrivel in disgust, then pick beers carefully.
“The mistake everyone makes is they pick their favourite beer to cook with, but most people’s favourite beer has a lot of hops in it,” explains Jonny.
“Cooking with hops is very dangerous. It can concentrate the beer and make dishes extremely bitter. I once tried to make beer risotto with a hoppy beer, it was completely inedible.”
Hoppy beers aren’t a complete no-no though. Jonny says: “Try an IPA battered fish or put it in anything with lots of cheese. I make an IPA & cheddar croquette, which works with the tang and bitterness.”
4. What are the best beers for beginners?
Lambic beers are your forgiving friend and can work much like white wine in most recipes. Imagine mussels in a white sauce made with lambic beer instead of white wine. “Cook with some acidity,” explains Jonny.
“Also imperial and roasty stouts are great for richness. The key rule is to be guided by colour. If you want to make beef stew with beer, then use a rich, deeply coloured stout. If you want a light sauce, try something lighter.”
5. Will using beer in our dishes put off my customers?
It isn’t about creating a boozy, beer-obsessed menu. It’s about using something you already serve in the pub and enhancing your dishes with it. Plus, it might even upsell some extra pints.
Jonny says: “When you cook beer at a high temperature it gets rid of a lot of the alcohol and any of the really strong flavours. You are left with subtleness.
“We make a stout sausage roll with a Siren Empress stout, which is brewed with black pepper. There’s a dark sticky sweetness to it, a hint of booze, but customers might not necessarily go ‘that’s beer.’”
THREE of Jonny’s best recipes
1. Beer onion & feta homemade pizza
Using sugar and a splash of double IPA to caramelise the onion
2. Salted beer nut brittle
Using a wit beer, syrup, oil and peanuts
3. Porter, rosemary & garlic roast beef
Using a porter, garlic and rosemary to marinade the meat