This Holiday Season, Hide Your Beer

Here’s the deal: Most holiday tables are decked out with creamy mashed potatoes, gooey mac and cheese, buttered rolls, sweet potato soufflé, piping hot turkey, sweet glazed hams, pies, cookies, coffee and… wine. But we do mean most. Not every table adheres to the somewhat traditional mandate of serving wine with holiday dinners, but a lot do. And if that table is yours, but you’re more of a beer drinker, we have a solution.

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Hide the beer.

Not in your purse, unnecessarily baggy jeans or actually in a wine glass. No, we suggest you hide your beer in the food.

Cooking with beer is a fairly new trend, but one that has gained some serious momentum in recent years. Blogs like The Beeroness, Cooking and Beer, and even sometimes our own blog regularly post recipes and culinary inspirations for readers to salivate over and then later attempt. This holiday season, you should definitely attempt.

While cooking with beer can seem like a tricky feat, consider the flavors: malty beers play nicely in sweeter dishes, complementing and bringing out notes of brown sugar and caramel. Hoppy beers can play that same game, though they may bring out other flavors, like citrus and subtle pine when combined with certain ingredients. There are no rules to cooking with beer, but there is one convenient fact: most copper to dark beers make for heartier dishes, like stews and roasted meats; lighter ales and lagers are good for fresher, brighter dishes, like fish or grilled chicken.

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Stick with seasonals and roasty beers while whipping up your side dishes and dessert contributions. Here are a few quick tips for chefs new to the craft cooking scene:

  1. Consider the flavors. Taste the beer first if you must! You wouldn’t want to make an already sweet dish even sweeter, but you may want to add roasted, nutty flavors to a nearly prepped sweet potato casserole. Beer is a bitter ingredient, but it does have subtle complexities and surprising flavor components that can be brought out in a dish; know what you’re dealing with before adding it to your food.
  2. The yeast in beer is great for baking. Breads, pancakes and fried foods are accentuated by the flavor and aided by the yeast. Try it in this recipe for focaccia bread pinned to our A Little Something Extra board on Pinterest.
  3. Beer is a good balancing agent. As we stated in tip number one, beer is bitter. Combined in a sauce over or with acidic foods like tomatoes, mustard and vinegar can bring down the tang and highlight the sweeter flavors of your dish.
  4. Beer can be balanced. Did you add a little too much? Balance your dish with additional doses of opposite flavors already used in your recipe. Add a handful of carrots in a stew or a splash of sherry to a marinade.
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. When you bring it down to its most basic form, craft beer is a lesson in experimentation. Brewers toy with ingredients and combine flavors you would hardly ever have considered before. Do the same with your dishes. You never know what bold decision will lead to your next side-dish masterpiece.

Get started with a few easy recipes. Try a pumpkin ale pie and a chocolate stout pecan pie for dessert this year. You can get the recipes in our latest issue of Off Tap. online here!

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