5 Pioneering Ways to Cook with Beer

Beer is sure to be on most Super Bowl menus—but as part of a stew, or as batter for fried shrimp? Stacey Slate offers five recipes that take beer out of the bottle and onto the dinner plate.

Here’s an idea for Super Bowl beer drinkers: Cook with those brews. Recipes that call for beer make use of its elemental starches and yeasts, not to mention ale’s rich flavors, both sweet and bitter. In its most essential form, beer is the product of fermented cereal grains (most commonly malted barley, though wheat and corn can also be used, as can rice), and the first ancient civilizations to discover this delicacy swiftly developed brewing methods to produce it. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris, the god of the underworld, is praised for introducing beer to humans. In Sumerian culture, beer is referenced on the earliest recovered tablet. Ancient Greeks, Israelis, Chinese, Europeans, and Africans all came to revere beer as part of their cultural and culinary lifestyles. Our present story is no different—humans love beer. Whatever your preference may be, get creative this Super Bowl Sunday.

“Ancient Greeks, Israelis, Chinese, Europeans and Africans alike, all revere beer as part of their cultural and culinary lifestyles.”

1. If you’re a brown ale drinker…make Beer-can Chicken. Anyone who attempts to roast a chicken, be it for the first time or the 10th, has most likely wound up with failed results and dry meat. Ultimately, the success of a memorable piece of chicken lies in its succulence. Inserting a half-filled beer can into the bottom of a chicken and then cooking the bird adds moisture to the meat as it cooks, essentially basting the bird from the inside. Use any cooking method available: the oven, smoker, or grill. To avoid a bitter bird, try a less hoppy, more malty beer, such as a brown ale or sweet stout. Brown ales are known for their sweet caramel tinge, though some medium-body types can have stronger tastes.

2. If you’re a European beer drinker…make Carbonnade Beef Stew. Belgians have been making beer for centuries, and many of the country’s notable beers are made by monks. The Chimay brewery, for example, is housed within a monastery and the beers that are crafted there are known as “trappist” beers, after the Cistercian religious branch. Belgian ale like Chimay is rich with fruity and peppery notes and sometimes has a bitter aftertaste. Simmered in the Belgian beef stew known as Carbonnade, a Chimay can make the broth rich with flavor and thickness. Including beer in this recipe also tenderizes the meat by breaking down its proteins, while giving a slightly bitter, tart flavor to the stew. The thicker the stew, the stronger the beer flavor.

3. If you’re an amber beer drinker…make Beer-Battered Shrimp. Here’s a recipe that is perfect for the first quarter. Snack foods that can be devoured in a bite or two are perfect Super Bowl fare, and these beer-battered shrimp are no exception. The batter for this recipe includes only a few ingredients and only a few steps. Amber ale contributes lightness to the batter in texture and taste. This style of beer tends to be slightly less bitter than its larger family of pale ales—the lighter the flavor, the more attention one’s palate can pay to the shrimp and its light, crispy crust.

4. If you’re a dark ale drinker…make Fondue. The match for a dark, heavy beer is a food that is just as robust: fondue. As the combined mild and sharp cheddar cheeses neutralize their own potency in this recipe, dark ale adds slight bitterness to this velvety dip. Sometimes dark ales can taste smoky—and at other times a bit like coffee or chocolate. The complex varieties of flavors that characterize these ales span floral tones and aromas of toasted grains and nuts. And the richness of dark ale finds its creamy complement in this melting pot.

5. If you’re a Guinness lover…make Plum Pudding. While this recipe is primarily a British dish served at Christmas, why not bring some unexpected flair to an all-American Super Bowl party? Consider a Guinness, an Irish stout, to balance the sweetness of fruits and molasses with its malt flavor. Because stout beers are made by roasting malt or barley, certain types have clear hints of coffee, toffee, and chocolate. These slightly bitter flavors add an aromatic complexity to an already rich and decadent dessert.

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Stacey Slate is a food writer in New York City. She has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times blog, Bitten, and is also a writer for Civil Eats and a new print publication, Remedy Quarterly. She is in the process of launching her own Web site where all of her work will be posted.