Did you know not all beers can be cooked? It’s true, and it means if you aren’t used to cooking with beer it’s probably best that you test the beer you want to cook with first just to make sure it will cook down in a desirable fashion.
The best way to test the ability of a beer to successfully cook down and reduce is to cook it over low to medium heat in a saucepan on the stove. Taste the beer as it cooks down — does it taste good, or are less than desirable flavors being produced? Naturally, things like sugar and acid can be added to reductions to change the taste. But first and foremost, you need to decide if the beer tastes good, or even decent, when cooked on its own.
So what makes a beer cook-able? Generally speaking, beers with higher malt content reduce the best. Residual sugars in the beer caramelize as the beer cooks down and, if enough water is evaporated off and some sugar is added, malty beers can reduce down into some amazing syrups and glazes.
Styles with a significant amount of caramel malts, like ESBs, Belgian dubbels and Scottish ales, work really well with a variety of foods, especially pork, duck, dried fruits, and nuts. These beers can cook down to a syrup that is comparable to caramel, so these beers also make excellent glazes. Dubbels can get fruitier when reduced with sugar.
Roasted malt beers, likes stouts and porters, typically work best with dark meats, like steak and lamb, chocolate dishes, and mushroom sauces. Roasted malt is extremely complementary to browned meat, coffee, chocolate, and earthy foods. However, roasted malt is typically too strong and overwhelming for more delicate foods like shellfish, chicken, and vegetables. (When reduced down all the way, these beers resemble chocolate and coffee syrups.)
Wheat beers, pale Belgian styles, and pale lagers make excellent cooking partners for the lighter meats like chicken, seafood and shellfish, veggies, and fruit desserts. They are also the preferred styles for beer batters. They reduce to honey-like syrups (especially the Belgian beers).
Hoppy beers are typically the hardest styles to work with in the kitchen. The bitterness in the hops tends to concentrate as the beer reduces, making for a really bitter sauce. These beers are typically reserved for marinades and dressings. They can also be used for beer batters and, on occasion, they may be used in super spicy recipes.
Excerpt from “The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer: An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer,” Ashley Routson, © 2015. Reprinted by permission of Voyageur Press.
Blackout Stout Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe by Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Because most baked goods require a liquid of sorts, whether it is milk or water or something else, they are some of the easiest recipes to infuse with beer, especially those with roasted malts (porters and stouts). The dark chocolate and espresso flavors in stouts make them a slam-dunk match for any chocolate dessert. And the richer (bigger and alcoholic) the stout, the richer the end product.
1 1/2 cups Great Lakes Brewing Co. Blackout Stout (or other imperial stout)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coffee extract (or strong brewed coffee)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the stout and cocoa powder, and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the brown sugar, eggs and oil. Mix on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream. Mix on medium speed until no lumps of sour cream remain, about 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add them to the sugar mixture and turn mixer on low speed. While mixing, slowly add the stout and cocoa mixture. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix everything until it’s just combined, about 1 minute.
Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full and bake for around 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Or, line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, fill three-quarters full, and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Top with buttercream of your choice and enjoy! Makes about 24 cupcakes or two 8-inch rounds.