Winter cooking is all about cozy and heartwarming fare. Enriching recipes with beer – from the palest pilsner to a deep, dark stout – adds depth and delivers full-on flavour. When just a splash is called for, as in deglazing a pan, a glug of beer will do the trick. Use a pale beer to replace white wine and a brown ale to stand in for red wine. Beer is brewed in so many styles it can be overwhelming; luckily, most beers will work well in the kitchen, just avoid those very bitter, extra-hopped IPAs (India Pale Ales), and you should be fine. And just as with wine, if you wouldn’t serve it by the glass, don’t cook with it. In other words, use the good stuff!
Here are six tasty ways to add beer to your winter dishes
Stews, Soups, Chilis and Braises: Many winter recipes call for liquids and longer cooking times and most often that liquid will be stock or even plain old water. But for extra richness and complexity, replace some (or most) of the cooking liquid with beer. For a lighter broth-based soup, go for a pale beer and for deeper, darker soups, go for something darker. From light lagers to dark ales, there’s a brew for every stew!
Breads, Biscuits and Batters: Beer in baking is a natural match because the bubbles add lift and the brew adds its warm, yeasty flavour. In yeast breads, quick breads, biscuits and dumplings, switch out half of the called for liquid – water, broth or milk – with a nutty brown ale. For a deep fry batter, go all in! An ice-cold bottle of bubbly beer makes for a light, crisp, flavourful coating, especially for fish.
Cakes and Cookies: Yup, that’s right. Some beers add just the right amount of sweetness to a cake, especially when chocolate, winter spices, nuts, dried fruits, and molasses are involved. Porter, stout, malt liquors, and other rich, dark ales are best, but have fun experimenting with seasonal, and fruit beers flavoured with peach, strawberry, raspberry and even pumpkin spice.
Marinades, Brines and Sauces: Beer is beautiful in a marinade for meats: pale beers for poultry and darker beers for red meats. The inherent subtle bitterness of most beers adds a nice balance to any marinade or sauce on the sweeter side, such as barbecue, honey-mustard or sweet and sour. Use beer to replace some of the brining liquid for a pork shoulder (butt), beef brisket, chicken or turkey, and enjoy a moist, tender and flavourful result. Adding a splash of dark ale to a creamy, extra-old cheddar sauce makes it a perfect accompaniment to braised pot roast with potatoes.
Dips and Entertaining Snacks: Beer and cheese go together as perfectly as chips and dip. A splash of beer added to your go-to party dip for veggies and chips will make it extra special. Remember, use a pale beer for cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream-based dips, as a dark beer will muddy the colour; brown beers go well with orange cheeses and pepper or spinach-based dips. Add beer to a festive cheese ball made with nippy cheddar; and a good glug of pale ale added to a warm cranberry dip for baked brie is distinctly delicious.
Shellfish: Mussels and clams steamed in beer? Oh yeah! It’s a surprisingly delicious change of pace. Butter, shallots, fresh herbs, and beer – yum! Mussels are robust, so choose any beer you enjoy, but clams are more delicate, so stick to pale beers, especially when adding cream. Just imagine linguini and clams served with an Italian pale beer. Perfetto!