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Pint glass to plate
Put your beer in more than a mug

03/17/16
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



 If you think beer is delicious as a beverage, imagine what it can do to your favorite chili or casserole.

According to Zachary Thayer, executive chef at New England’s Tap House Grille, cooking with beer can be as simple as using it to marinate meat.
“[Get] a beer you like, whether it be a Shock Top or a Guinness or even a Bud Light ... put it on steak and let it marinate,” he said in a phone interview.
Strange Brew Tavern Manager Deirdre Conway said cooking with beer first came onto her radar as a marinade, but with today’s high-quality and craft beers there are plenty of other ways that beer can boost a dish’s flavor. 
 
Perfect pairings
With 48 beers on tap, the Tap House Grille menu features a number of dishes that use beer as an ingredient, such as chili, beef stew and pork tenderloin marinated in hard cider or pumpkin beer in the fall.
“We have a large selection to choose from that we can really pair with and play with,” Thayer said. 
At Strange Brew, Conway said, the steak tips are marinated in a lager or porter, the alehouse chicken in a light beer. The chicken and black bean chili, honey mustard ale sauce and meatloaf all have beer in them, as does the batter that’s used for the fish and chips, onion rings and tenders. 
“We use Blue Moon for our beer batter because it has more of a citrus taste to it,” she said. 
For St. Patrick’s Day, Strange Brew makes a lamb and Guinness stew and also a black and tan cake with one layer of Guinness cake and one layer of lager or ale cake. 
“It’s great — [beer is] a natural leavening because of the yeast in it,” she said.
For Thayer, using beer as an ingredient is appealing because it coaxes out new characteristics not only from the beer, but also from the other ingredients. 
“For example, if you take a pork tenderloin and marinate it in beer and then you eat the pork tenderloin and maybe have that same beer, it’s going to bring out some of the characteristics and balance things out very nicely,” he said.
Or you can forgo the complement route altogether and try contrasting the dish by drinking an entirely different beer.
Conway suggests going with subtle, not overly spiced flavors when it comes to cooking with beer, like porters, lagers and ales. 
“I wouldn’t use an IPA to marinate something because it’s so strong it would be all you tasted,” she said. “[And] you can’t use a fruit beer unless [you’re] making a dessert.”
Thayer likes cooking with pale ales because they tend to keep most of the original flavor characteristics, unlike darker beers that have more variability, potentially getting sweet or bitter depending on the type. But in the end, the changes in the beer and the finishing flavor profile all depend on what you’re cooking.
“Everything is going to change and taste different whether it’s a light or dark beer or [you’re] cooking with chicken or beef or a vegetarian dish,” he said.
 
Get cooking
The easiest way to try your hand at cooking with beer is using it as a meat marinade. With grill season coming up, Conway suggested putting beer on some beef, ribs or chicken or even finding a recipe that calls for wine and replacing it with beer. 
“If it calls for wine … feel free to do it [with beer],” she said. “Beer as well as wine tenderizes the meat naturally so … marinate them in beer for a while and it will help break down the membrane and makes it really extra delicious.”
Thayer recommends using beer to make a sauce or adding it to a pre-existing dish. The Tap House Grille menu features a beer cream sauce that starts by reducing the beer before adding the garlic, shallots and other ingredients to achieve the desired taste. This process requires the cook to be a bit more selective, he said, as the reduction could really change the flavor. For example, hoppy IPAs don’t reduce as well as lighter beers. Conway said to cut the beer with a broth or juice before adding it in because the goal is to enhance the dish, not overpower it.
“The big thing I would say is go pick yourself up a six-pack and have fun,” Thayer said. “Try it one way, try it another way — baked, grilled, boiled.” 





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