Now You’re Cookin’ with … Beer?

Late last month, Stone Brewing Company apologized for something called Mustardgate. What the heck is a Mustardgate, you ask? Apparently, it’s when a brewery commissions a company to make beer mustards and said company leaves out a vital ingredient — the beer. Here’s an excerpt from Stone’s apology:

“We had no idea this was happening, and we immediately removed them from sale as soon as we learned of it last week. We work with Russ Bruhn, a local guy who owns a company called Carlsbad Gourmet to supply the mustards; Russ then contracts with another company to produce them. It is this company that we have found failed to put the beer in the mustard. What they did with the beer, we’re not sure. We sent them full kegs and they sent us back empty kegs … one can only imagine where it might have gone.”

Drunken mustardeers aside, this mishap saddens me. As soon as I read about it, I started craving beer mustard, which as you probably guessed is mustard with beer in it. Stone insists that these products are now “instant beer mustards — just add beer!” So I suppose I could make my own, but who wants to go through that hassle? That’s why peanut butter and jelly come in a single jar now. On the other hand, I’d get to drink the remaining beer.

You might be wondering, why is this relevant? Well, a lot of breweries use beer to cook or season food — especially if they run brewpubs. For example, you’ve probably seen beer-battered somethings on a menu before. As the title suggests, they mix beer into their standard batter to add extra flavors (although I always picture two bottles with bats thrashing some helpless potato or chicken strip in an alley behind the restaurant), but what happens if they don’t actually put the beer in the food? If I missed out on those unique flavors, I might sink into a deep depression and do something stupid. Something to hurt myself. Something like chug a Chelada.

The relationship between beer and food just makes sense. Beer has more in common with food than many other beverages, even those used in cooking — two of beer’s base ingredients are grains and herbs, after all — so this stuff matters to geeks like me. Cooking with beer has even blossomed into a full-time profession. Just look at beercook.com, which features links to recipes, pairing suggestions, and a list of real-life beer chefs.

Now that my overwhelming knowledge and wit has convinced you (play along), let’s talk recipes. One of the famous beer-food hybrids is beer can chicken. I’ve always assumed that a canned craft beer from a brewery like Oskar Blues or Surly would produce better flavors than an everyday macro-lager, but a friend reported that he tried it and could barely taste the beer. This made me wonder if these heavier beers required specific recipes, so I did some research and unearthed a debate questioning the safety of the beer can! Most aluminum cans are lined with a plastic coating that, when heated, can release potentially harmful chemicals. It’s the same reason many plastic containers have “Do not microwave” stamped on their backsides. On his Examiner page, beer icon Charlie Papazian suggests filling a stainless steel cooking can with the appropriate amount of beer, just to be safe. As for a recipe, I found one that sounds great over at Billy Brew (even though it contradicts my previous point about the dangers of cooking on the can). It even uses Old Chub, one of the best canned beers available. I’ll try it out and report back in a future article.

Aside from chicken, you can use beer in breads, sauces, desserts, and so much more. You can even make beer floats, which usually involve plopping a scoop of ice cream into a hearty stout. Trust me, it tastes better than it sounds! Most of the time, anyway — I once read that Stone owner Greg Koch made a beer float using Stone’s Imperial Russian and bacon ice cream. Even I’m not sold on that.

The Internet is rich with beer-based recipes. Check out the creatively named Amazing Ribs, which involves slow-cooking pork ribs in porter. I guess the name is accurate at least, because that certainly sounds amazing. You can find more recipes here, here, and here. I even found a few cookbooks on the subject.

But that’s not all. Brewers don’t just use beer to prepare food; they sometimes do things the other way around, throwing unusual foods into their beer! I already wrote an article explaining the utter weirdness of the chili beer, but there are many other examples, especially when it comes to porters and stouts. These dark ales are often brewed with coffee and chocolate as adjuncts to enhance the mocha flavors that occur in them naturally. In fact, next week I’ll review one such mocha beer — only this one’s on steroids.

Comments
4 Responses to “Now You’re Cookin’ with … Beer?”
  1. Ben says:

    I admit, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, which may have contributed to the nearly no-beer flavor. Then again, maybe just a hint of flavor was what the recipe was reaching for. All I know is, when I tried beer can chicken at a restaurant (they used Miller High Life), I could taste the beer pretty well. And it was delicious, despite the fact that I hate Miller High Life.
    Maybe stout is my next step.

    • Scott says:

      I’d definitely encourage experimentation with different beer styles. But as I said, special beers might require special recipes. Still, it surprises me that there was NO added flavor with such a flavorful beer. I’m just going to need to try it out and report back, as I said above! Thanks for the comment and the field research. 😀

  2. Ben says:

    it kinda bothers me when breweries also have dining areas and then make very little use of their beers in the cooking.

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