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Cooking with Beer: Ideas and Pairings

Spring and summer are all about smoked meats and steaks and veggies on the grill—and nothing goes better with them than beer.


In addition to being delicious, beers bring bitterness that balance the other flavors (salt, sweet, umami, sour) in a dish. They also impart their own flavors to the food and the type of beer you use will bring different flavors to the dish. Hefeweizens have flavor and aroma notes of banana and cloves; blondes often have vanilla or honey added; sours are frequently fruity; brown ales can be nutty; dark beers like stouts, porters, or schwarzbiers will often taste of chocolate, caramel, or coffee. The goal with food is either to complement or to contrast flavors, but the single biggest consideration is strength. You don’t want the beer to overwhelm the dish or have the dish overpower the beer.


Beer can be used as an ingredient in dishes for every course from appetizers to desserts. As a general rule, use darker beers with darker dishes. While you can cook with almost any beer, be cautious with IPAs, which can be too bitter for cooking, especially in dishes where they are reduced and their flavors concentrate.


Start your beer barbecue with appetizers that incorporate beer. Make a beer-cheese dip to serve with chips or pretzels. Try caramelizing onions in beer, then baking into a tart or making crostini with goat cheese, thinly sliced steak, and beets cooked in beer.


Marinate a medley of summer vegetables in a beer-based marinade before grilling, or try beer-battered fritters as an accompaniment to steaks or burgers. You can also braise

vegetables in beer: try carrots, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts.


Beer provides excellent flavor to meats. Marinate steaks and hamburgers in beer before grilling. Cook hotdogs in beer before finishing on the grill for added flavor. Add beer to a barbecue sauce or spicy wholegrain mustard to develop complex flavor that pairs perfectly with smoky meats. For nearly all beef applications you’ll want to use a darker beer. The roasted flavor of many darker styles are the perfect accompaniment.

Beer braised brats with caramelized onions are a perfect example of using beer to create delicious meals.


Beer can also be used to make condiments to pair with your meal. Try adding beer to a homemade barbecue sauce, ketchup, or a mustard to use on sandwiches or as a dip for pretzels. Lighter beers can even be used to make a salad dressing.


Much like the right wine, the right beer can elevate the dining experience by complementing the flavors and coaxing specific flavors and aromas from the foods they’re paired with. Whatever you serve, there’s a beer to go with it.

Hotdogs: Hefeweizen

Brats/Sausages: German lager, brown ale

Burgers: Pale ale, amber ale

Steaks: Dry stout

Brisket: Double IPA

Kabobs: Brown ale

Roasted/Smoked Meats: Porter, dunkel, schwarzbier, Rauchbier

Vegetables: Amber lager, pilsner, Belgian dubbel

Citrus: Witbier, pilsner

All-around: When you need one beer to pair with the entire meal at your summer cookout, reach for a brown ale: it complements grilled food almost universally.

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