Beer: a simple, yet complex, brew made of grain, hops, water & yeast.
The two most popular varieties are lager & ales, usually defined by their fermentation & aging process:
Lagers are the most popular worldwide. They are moderately hopped, fermented with the yeast at the bottom of the barrel & aged under refrigeration for 6 weeks to 6 months. The result is a beer with light to medium hops flavor (sweeter than ales), highly carbonated & light in color. Budweiser, Coors & Miller are lagers. These pair well with most foods.
Ales are top fermented with the yeasts floated on top of the liquid & aged at room temperature for only a short while. They generally have a higher alcohol content & stronger hops flavor than lagers, range in taste and body from light, with a taste similar to that of lager, to dark, with a heavy, strong, roasted flavor. Stouts are made with roasted barley, resulting in the strongest & darkest of the ales. Dark ales are a “meal in themselves.” Match these only with strong flavored foods.
Beer adds delightful complex flavors & zing to a dish:
- Hops add bitterness which complements sweet flavors in the foods.
- The sweetness of the malted grain offsets the bitterness of the hops.
- Yeast lends earthy sour & acidic tones. The action of the yeast gives the beer its carbonation or effervescence.
- Finally, the alcohol extracts & intensifies natural flavors in the food.
- Dark beers also provide a distinct roasted flavor.
o Highly carbonated, lagers lighten batters, breads & biscuits - Think beer battered fish.
- B.T.W. Non-alcoholic beer can also be used to add sweet, sour, & bitter notes to foods.
When cooking with beer keep in mind:
- Always use beers that are good enough to drink!!!!! If you don’t like the taste of a beer in your glass, chances are you won’t like in your food.
- As in cooking with wine, match the “heft” of the beer to that of the food:
- Use medium body or lighter beers for light meats, like poultry or pork & mild creamy cheeses. Add these over reduced heat, toward the end of cooking.
- Use heavier beers, like stouts and dark beers for robust meats, like beef & full flavored cheeses, like smoked cheeses. Dark beers work well for stews. Add these at the beginning of cooking & cook them at low temperatures.
- Don’t try to reduce beer like you would wine to form a sauce. As the liquids evaporate the bitterness of the hops intensifies - very unpleasantly.