By Andrea Buckett
Today’s Canadian beer industry began with home brewers in 17th century New France. With the growing season too short for grapes, but ideal for barley, wine-craving French colonists brewed their own beer as a tasty substitute. Eventually, commercial brewing took hold with the Brasserie de Roy established in 1668. Later, John Molson’s Montreal-based operation was founded in 1786, and others followed. While big commercial breweries are still going strong, Canada’s bourgeoning craft beer industry also produces exciting flavours and products for beer lovers.
Barley, now Canada’s third-largest crop, is the most commonly used grain to make malt. This forms the first step in brewing where barley grains are germinated then roasted. This malt is then soaked, drained, boiled with hops, and lastly fermented with yeast.
While it may seem like beer varieties are endless, they actually fit into just two categories:
Ale or lager. Some popular ales are IPAs (India Pale Ales), wheat beers and Irish stout. Trendy styles such as saisons, lambics and sour beers are also ales. Well-known lagers include pilsners, along with most German-style beers and light-tasting Mexican brews.
When it comes to enjoying beer, there are so many ways it can satisfy on a hot day beyond guzzling down a cold one! Here are just some ideas for cooking with this iconic drink of summer:
1. Campfire Mussels:
Use ale instead of water to steam open a pot of mussels: bring beer to a simmer, add cleaned mussels, cover with lid and cook, stirring once or twice until mussels open, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened shells.
2. Beer-Can Chicken:
A backyard classic. Use a regular-sized can of beer (not a tall-can) and drink it down halfway. Place the cavity of a prepared whole chicken overtop the can until the chicken rests upright on its own. Grill over indirect heat until meat is cooked through.
3. BBQ Sauce:
Adding beer to BBQ sauce enhances its overall flavour. Pour a cup of beer into homemade sauce after it’s done simmering and let cool, or stir a little beer into prepared sauce for basting.
Beer has enzymes that can help tenderize proteins, making it ideal for marinating. Light-tasting beer works best, unless you have a flavourful cut of beef that can stand up to more complex brews. Try beer mixed with lemon, canola oil and garlic, or beer with soy sauce, honey and orange.
Trust me, beer cocktails are worth it. My favourites right now are:
Red Eye: tomato juice, beer and salt—for those red-eye mornings!
Michelada: lime juice and beer plus a few dashes each of hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
Shandy: equal parts beer and lemonade
Beer float: anything goes, but try stout with coffee ice cream, fruit lambics with vanilla ice cream, or an IPA with lemon-lime sorbet
Beer makes an excellent brine for refrigerator-style pickles. Simmer beer in your pickling liquid until sugar dissolves and let cool. Pour brine over sliced vegetables, seal and refrigerate. This is a great way to use up veggie odds and ends for adding to burgers, hot dogs or a big summer charcuterie board.