A long-time favourite for many, beer is fast becoming the drink du jour for trendy tipplers everywhere. But this frothy brew isn’t just for sipping – it’s the new darling of the kitchen. While yeasty suds have been a pantry staple in many cuisines for centuries, beer cookery has progressed way beyond the usual battered fish ‘n’ chips to haute cuisine. But before you get cooking, you need to know a few beer basics.
There are two main types of beer – lagers and ales. Think of pale-coloured lagers as the white wine of the beer world and ales as the red. Lagers, such as Pilsner, are typically light-bodied with a mildly bitter undertone and pleasant bubbly effervescence. Ales are more full-flavoured and usually have less carbonation.
Brown ale is a loose term used to describe the mildest of ales. They can range in colour from red, copper, gold, yellow or straw. Stout and porter are other common types of ale. Stout is dark and bitter with a deep rich flavour that’s dry and roasty (think Guinness). Some stout is flavoured with hints of coffee or fruit. Porter is similarly dark and full-bodied, but with a distinct barley flavour that’s often described as chocolatey.
Regardless of what kind of beer you cook with, they all share a similar quality: bitterness. Because of this, beer adds great depth and dimension to many recipes. My rule of thumb is to use stout or porter for boldly flavoured dishes and lagers or pale ales for more delicate meals.
Use any bottle of lager to punch up the creaminess in slow-cooked Beer-braised pork with mushrooms or to add a spark to our Great Canadian Spaghetti Sauce. You can also try imported Corona – a popular lager – in Peruvian Duck With Coriander Rice.
Ales go well with anything sweet. They add a rich layer to soups, stews and braises featuring sugary veggies such as onions, carrots or corn. Try them in these comfort-food dinners: Real Deal Chili, Beer-Braised Onions and Sausages or Bistro Onion Soup.
If you’re looking to use up a bottle of full-flavoured porter or stout, try adding it to barbecue sauce or our unforgettable Beer-Glazed Barbecue Chicken.