COOKING WITH BEER

I find cooking with beer to be one of the most morally vexing issues of our time. Sure, food is good; some may argue a necessity. Food that tastes good is better still… and adding beer makes everything better. Right?

And yet, I was raised to never waste beer- and I’m talking cheap swill of the sort you wouldn’t order for your worst enemy. Beers like Genny Cream and Milwaukee’s Best. During my formative years beer was regarded as a sacred beverage, and you always had to finish your beer. God forbid if you accidentally spilled a beer, you were duty-bound to drink an equal volume of the same in tribute. All-in-all, I think this outlook is good and worthwhile- we live in a wasteful society, and I despise the notion of drainpours… those beers brewed in such a way that they are rated to be not worthy of your consumption. Get over yourself, people. It’s just beer.

That’s why it’s so hard for me to dump a perfectly good beer into food I’m preparing. I like to cook- nothing fancy mind you. I like to grill meat. I like to cook breakfast. By far the favorite culinary weapon in my admittedly limited arsenal is the crockpot. It’s hard to mess things up; most recipes throw out suggested figures like “cook on low 4-6 hours” (I appreciate a large margin for error when cooking). You can throw a bunch of ingredients in the slowcooker before you leave for the day and come back to a home wafting delicious aromas, with no danger of burning your domicile to the ground. The meal can be kept fresh and hot for the whole family, despite staggered schedules and varying supper times.

That’s why I was excited to stumble across a crockpot recipe that is cheap, easy, hearty, and greatly improved by beer. Does my shriveled Alehead heart feel a pang when I added the fermented ingredient? Sure, a little, but it grows three sizes when I sample the final product.

What You’ll Need

3-Lbs Polish-style Kielbasa or preferred smoked meatish product, cut in 3″ pieces

6-pack of lightly-colored, hop-forward, economically-priced ale (Any Pale Ale or IPA  worthy of your fridge will do)

30-ounces canned or bagged sauerkraut

1 cup spicy mustard

What To Do

Put all the meat, sauerkraut, and mustard in the crockpot. Open and dump one of the beers into the crockpot. Turn to low, and cook for roughly 5 hours. Drink 1 beer every hour, as needed.

What You Get

A hearty, hoppy Bavarian concoction that works for family dinners, pot-luck parties, or tail-gate get-togethers. A plus- the leftovers kick ass.

Pro Tip

With the last couple leftover servings, chop up the meat and fry it with the remaining kraut in a pan with a little butter or bacon grease until brown. It looks like this:

Final Thought

So is this worthy of an Aleheads post? Not really, but I’m suffering from writers block and we haven’t put up any new content in about a week, and Brother Barley is sending the whole crew email composed solely of text-based emoticons with judgmental expressions.

So, I pose to you, Alehead Nation: do you like to cook with beer? What’s your favorite recipe? Easy, cheap, and meat-based preferred.

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12 comments

  1. I have a solution. Why don’t you drink a beer for every one you waste by pouring it into your food? I think cooking with beer is only modestly wasteful, but taking your punishment as if you were truly wasting it might assuage the guilt.

    1. I agree; please note the above recipe features a 5-to-1 drank vs cooked-with ratio. Of course, this should be considered a minimum suggested figure. Feel free to round up if need be.

      1. Thanks for posting, Sixpack. Apparently when Brother Barley takes a vacation, the rest of the Aleheads turn into shiftless, lazy gadabouts.

        I’m not sure how that’s any different than the status quo, but still…

      2. It’s not “wasting” beer unless you dump the leftovers. Though admittedly, you are cooking off a lot of the alcohol.

        My solution? A shot of bourbon while you cook. That should easily cancel out the angel’s share lost to your range’s hood.

  2. It’s funny that you posted this today, because I made a beer-braised chuck roast tonight for a few friends. Essentially a classic American pot roast, but braised in beer instead of stock or something like that.

    The best part is that it comes out great with beer I wouldn’t otherwise really drink. In this case, I made it with two bottles of New Belgium Fat Tire that had been left in my fridge from a previous party. Whereas you, Slouch, feel like things are getting wasted, I feel like they’re being put to a better use than simple drinking! Because believe it or not, Fat Tire, when braised with 2.5 lbs of marbled beef and root vegetables, heavily salted and reduced, tastes pretty damn awesome.

    Serve with herb-roasted yukon gold potatoes, if you’re me. Serve with instant mashed potatoes if you have better things to do.

  3. lorie vogel · · Reply

    yum…….going to remember this!!

  4. The Haybag drains a whole stout into the crock pot corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy’s. And one of my mustard-based BBQ sauces has Scotch Ale in it. It ain’t wastin’ it if you ingest it (particularly if you drink at least an equivalent amount while cooking).

  5. joshhenaman · · Reply

    New to the site, but a dedicated listener of the podcast. I’m on the fence as far as cooking with beer. Unfortunately, a lot of recipes end up losing the flavor of the brew and you finish with a lot of bitterness (but when it hits…) The sauerkraut and sausage sounds fantastic, so I’ll definitely have to try it. One concoction that I love isn’t meat-based, but it goes great with a nice pork loin. Brussels sprouts and Abita Pecan Harvest.

    Remove the excess leafy parts of the sprouts and slice them in half. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or two depending upon how many sprouts you have) in a skillet and toss in the sprouts. Salt and pepper to taste and brown the sprouts so they just start to turn a nice brown (a little bit of char is okay too!) Once you’ve got some nice sprouts going, pour in a bottle of the Pecan Harvest and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the beer sprouts cook for a few minutes (not too long as you want the sprouts to still have a little snap to them and not be too mushy.) A great nutty dish.

    1. That almost makes me want to eat Brussels sprouts.

      Almost.

      1. It took me a while, but they won me over. The key is to stop them before they turn into “boogery-mush”. You could even keep all of the snap and enjoy the char of olive oil and salt and instead just drink the beer (just cook the sprouts for a minute or two longer w/no added liquid.)

  6. Jack Fate · · Reply

    Had the great misfortune of having a stout go bad . The better part of a 1/2 keg . I put it in growlers and have been cooking with it for the past 3 months. I put it in the water pan of my smoker also. I always save my old stock of beer I’m not to fond of for cookin’
    The pro tip reminds me of my fathers cooking GO BACON GREASE!!!!

    1. I can’t find anything wrong with your line of thinking (no more sink pours!) Sign me up for Team Bacon Grease!

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