Spicing Up Your Cooking With Beer

An Egyptian proverb goes, “ The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer”. Well, some beers have spices in them. Spices are used in cooking. So following that logic, why not cook with beer? It might be easier than you think.

The magical combination of water, barley, hops and yeast has been a staple of peasants and popes alike and has been quaffed since the 6th millennium BCE. Some of your favourite foods can benefit from the inclusion of the many styles of beer brewed today. But don’t get into too much of a rush to fire up the grill and crack a cold one my friends, for not just any beer will do.

A Kolsch style beer fermenting

A sound piece of advice when it comes to cooking with beer is, “If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.” Most mass produced beers are usually inferior choices due to the inclusion of corn and rice in the brewing process which adds a less than pleasant after-taste. Many are also categorized as “light” beers, which translates into “light on taste”. The superior choice is to go with a microbrewed beer made by small, often independent breweries using higher quality ingredients with a greater emphasis on complex flavours and aromas. The more character the beer has, the more it will impart on your food. That being said, the most expensive beer isn’t necessarily the right beer to cook with. You wouldn’t cook with really pricey wine, so don’t break the bank on the beer going into your food.

Beer comes in dozens of styles, and brewers are innovating new ones all the time. Your choice of beer should be tailored to best suit what its flavoring. For example, stouts are dark and robust, while Indian Pale Ales are hoppy and floral. Check out BeerAdvocate.com for great explanations for many beer styles. Determining which style of beer to use can be a breeze by following a few guidelines. Dark beers like Belgian quadruples, stouts and more robust ales, which are malty with roasted notes go well with red meats, pork and cheese based dishes. Beers with a more pale colour such as IPA’s, lagers and wheat beers compliment poultry and seafood well. Read the description on the label, most will tell you what style it is if the name of the beer itself doesn’t give it away.

Some seasoned sweet corn baked in some copper ale

Spices make everything better, including beer. Brewers choose spices that mirror the weather, since most beers containing these inclusions are not brewed year-around. Hefeweizens are traditionally spiced with coriander and clove and are great on a summer’s day. Christmas ales are usually brewed with nutmeg and allspice. Use pumpkin ales brewed in the fall for their noticeable use of cinnamon.

Getting beer from the bottle to your plate does not require rocket science. It makes a tasty marinade by itself when paired correctly with the respective protein. Let your steak, pork or chicken sit in some beer over night and you will be rewarded come chow time as the flavour of the beer has infused with the natural character of the meat. You can substitute beer for water in many cases to impart a bold flavour in your cooking when it comes to soups, stews and sauces. Personally, I enjoy the effects of a hoppy beer in conjunction with the heavy use of hot spices to keep the taste buds guessing.

So experiment, you will be surprised with how many different ways you can include beer in your cooking. Below is my recipe for Welsh Rarebit Open-Faced Sandwich which utilizes the robust roasted and chocolate notes that an imperial stout brings to the party. And as always, enjoy with responsibility.

Welsh Rarebit Open-Face Sandwich (serves 4)


  • 8 pieces of Slab Bacon
  • 1 loaf Rye Bread (cut into 1 1/2 inch slices)
  • 1 Tomato (sliced thick)
  • 2 tbs. Butter
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbs. Flour
  • 2 tbs. Deli Mustard
  • 1 tbs. Wildly Natural One Original Seasoning
  • 6 oz. Imperial Stout (room temperature)
  • 12 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese (shredded)


Cook your bacon nice and crispy, letting it cool on some paper towels when finished. Put the slices of rye bread into the oven until lightly toasted on both sides. Place the bacon and two tomatoes slices on each piece of bread. Bring a medium sauce pan to low heat and melt the butter. Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, flour, deli mustard and Wildly Natural One Original. Slowly add the beer and then the cheddar cheese, whisking until homogeneous. Pour immediately and liberally over the sandwiches, allowing the bread to soak some of it up. Serve and say cheers.


~ by wildlynaturalone on April 29, 2011.

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