So, why cook with beer?
I suppose it’s a good question. I would reply with one of my own. Why cook with wine?
“It’s great for adding acidity to rich dishes,” says celeb chef Alex Guarnaschelli. “It’s a lot like adding vinegar to olive oil when you’re making a vinaigrette. In my mind, if I’m making a beef stew, I imagine the beef is the olive oil and the wine is the vinegar, and I try to strike a balance between the two ingredients.”
That’s nice. But, let’s be honest. The primary reason for any ingredient is how it adds to the cumulative flavor of the dish. The alcohol cooks off and leaves behind the underlying flavors of the wine. For a red, it’s dark and red fruits, and spice. For whites, you will likely catch oaks, sweet flavors and lighter fruits. Wine can also add body to a sauce, complementing tomatoes or lemons, amongst other things.
Beer can do the same thing, if you use the right kind of beer. Much in the same way you would not cook with Arbor Mist, you should stay away from the heavily fruited beers. And since you wouldn’t cook with a apertif, I would stay away from novelty beers like Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut series. Too sweet for the average everyday application. You want a versatile, full-bodied beer that is going to stand up to the heat and not breakdown: porters, stouts, and dark ales do nicely here.
Brown ales, in particular, are my preference. They offer a nutty, bready flavor profile, thanks to the use of malt and barley in the brewing process, and are often higher in alcohol content so it will not fall apart over a hot flame.
My choice for The Beeroness’ roasted tomato and brown ale sauce was Good Nature Brewing’s American Brown Ale. It’s full-bodied and well-balanced with hints of chocolate and coffee. GNB is readily available around these parts in 22 oz. bottles and I happened to have one in my basement.
WHAT WORKED: The cherry tomatoes brought an unexpected sweetness to this dish, which contrasts the malty flavor from the beer nicely.
WHAT DIDN’T: Balsamic vinegar, used by The Beeroness in her original recipe, doesn’t actually add anything here. I skipped it.
EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium.
BEST FOR: A quick, semi-elegant midweek dinner or if you are looking to win an argument with a wine snob about cooking with beer.
SERVE WITH: More beer. And some fettuccine with some of that tomato sauce.