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Brew Review

Beer… It’s What’s for Dinner

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By Joni Williams


You can have your beer and eat it, too.


Though there are a variety of ways to cook with beer that involve batter and a deep fryer—which is way too much mess for lazy cooks like ourselves—the recent Hurricane Irma-induced temperature crash reminded us fall (a/k/a football season) is almost here. It’s the perfect time to break out the chili recipes. And, of course, the beer, too—perfect to go with chili, and in it.


In case you haven’t heard, beer chili is the best. We grew up on the stuff and we aren’t even from Texas, the state that’s not only famous for its chili, but for adding a brewski to the pot. Pretty smart, those Texans. They know hops and malt can infuse a simmering chili with some much-needed liquid to add a unique depth of flavor.


Though our fave has always been a meaty, beanless variety, we recently ventured outside our chili comfort zone and whipped up a couple of trendier versions using poultry and beans other than kidneys. So far the biggest crowd pleaser was our black bean and chipotle chili made with a hearty portion of ground turkey, fire roasted tomatoes, corn and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.


Though we used a bottle of dark Guinness in our last batch, we’re going to go with something lighter next time like Rogue’s Dead Guy, a super flavorful, smooth tasting bock.  Fortunately, with all the spice going on, it was really hard to mess up the end result. Though we were kind of wishing we went with a lighter beer, our Guinness chili was still a big hit with our hungry recipe testers (also known as the fam) who gobbled it up without complaint.


Our adventure into turkey chili went so well, it got us to thinking—if turkey can sub for beef, why can’t chicken? So we whipped up a chicken and white bean chili using a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, one of our favorite go-to brews, using a little more than half a bottle for a small batch. Do we really have to explain what happened to the rest of it?


Though similar recipes call for sour cream to be mixed in the broth to give it a thick and creamy consistency, we found that unless it’s eaten right away, it breaks down. Instead, we serve it on the side and thicken the chili broth by mashing some of the beans with liquid until it makes a kind of bean slurry. Believe it or not, this makes a creamy, gluten- and dairy-free base. As a bonus, using chicken breasts makes for a skinny chili, and all those saved calories can be used to wash it down with some guilt-free brews.


We know what you’re thinking. That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the taste? When slow-simmered with spice, broth and our pale ale that added depth of flavor without hijacking the spicy flavor, this turned out to be one of the tastiest chilis we’ve ever made. It paired exceptionally well with our cornbread donuts, perfect for dunking.


Speaking of cornbread, you can make an easy, no-fuss beer cornbread by replacing the water in a quick mix like Martha White’s that doesn’t require milk or eggs. Use a caramelly brew for a sweeter flavor or a spicy IPA for a more savory edge. And it doesn’t need to be flat—the carbonation will actually help aerate the batter. Doctor it up even more by throwing in some chopped peppers, onions, cheese, chopped ham or cooked bacon.


Want to try cooking with beer but not sure what kind to throw in? An easy way to start is with a common everyday beer. We’re talking anything from Anheuser Busch, Miller or even a PBR. If you’re looking for dark, try a Mich or Guinness.


On the other hand, cooking with beer is the perfect way to make good use of those brews in your fridge you’ve been avoiding. The beer you don’t like to drink might be one you love to eat. Got a dunkel that’s way too earthy? Pour some in stews, beefy soups, bread dough or chocolate cake batter for extra depth of flavor. Or maybe it’s a sugary sweet pumpkin, pecan or other ale that makes your tongue curl.


Chances are good the intense flavor is just what the cake doctor ordered to liven up a ho-hum baked good from a mix. This also works with sweet breads, muffins, and even pies.  Because, really, why should rum and whiskey have all the fun?

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