January 7, 2011

Cooking With Beer

This month's Beer Blogging Friday Session topic is Cooking With Beer, which gives us the opportunity to explore beer's role in the kitchen. Cooking is defined as preparing food by the use of heat. Brewing involves many of these same processes to create beer's characteristic aromas and flavors. From toasty, nutty or roasty flavors developed in the malt kilning process, to maillard-derived caramel flavors and hop bitterness extracted in the boil kettle, beer is literally a cooked beverage.

More after the jump!

If you've been following along with us here at BeerPHXation in our crusade to promote local beer culture, you obviously know about our disucssions on pairing beer with food. From our Open Letter to Arizona Restaurant Week Participants to Rob's Ignite Phoenix 8 talk, we've pushed the concept that a beer culture requires the recognition that beer is a perfect complement with food and can improve the dining experience. Continuing in this line, we took a survey of a few local restaurants where you can not only pair your food with a good beer, but order food cooked with a good brew.

Beer and bread have many similarities with both being made from grain and yeast. Many scholars argue whether bread or beer was what prompted the development of agriculture and civilization. No matter which came first, due to their interrelated heritage they are a perfect choice for combining in the kitchen. For a good example of this, head over to SanTan Brewing Company in Chandler to try their beer bread or pizza crust. They begin with a blend of Devil's Ale and Epicenter and add unfermented wort to bring the mixture up to a sugar content of 13 Plato. The unfermented wort provides sugars for the yeast to consume during proofing. The same batter is seasoned when used for their onion rings and fish and chips. In speaking with owner and brewmaster Anthony Canecchia, he told us that he "feels that the mixture brings a sweetness and distinct character to the dough that can't be replicated anywhere else." He added that "customers rave about our pizza and tell us that they've never eaten the whole crust until they had SanTan pizza."

For a beer infused dessert, you can't go wrong with the Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout Shake. It is a combination of 10 ounces of vanilla ice cream with 6 ounces of their stout. The glass is drizzled with chocolate syrup and the whole concoction is topped with whipped cream. The chocolate malt in the stout combines nicely with the vanilla ice cream to create a perfect pairing, as long as you don't ask the bartender how many calories it has. This is also a combination you can experiment with at home. Try different beers with various ice cream flavors to see what works best.

Brewmaster dinners are another great way to experience beer cooked with food. These are usually 4 or 5 course dinners where the brewer and chef work together to create dishes that pair nicely with the beers. Often beer will be used as an ingredient in many of the selections such as at the World Beer Cup Awards Dinner this past April where Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton used over 200 gallons of beer preparing the 4-course dinner for over 2000 people. While not on that scale, most local breweries participate in local events throughout the year, either at their brewpub or paired with a local restaurant. As an example Four Peaks has recently teamed up with local restaurants such as Talavera with IPA Braised Mussels or Noca with Oatmeal Stout Braised Shortribs. Some upcoming events include SanTan Brewery at Brittlebush Bar & Grill on January 21, and AZ Girls' Pint Out Beer Brunch at Four Seasons Scottsdale on January 30th.

We hope you will seek out these dishes and others throughout the valley that use beer as an ingredient and explore cooking with beer at home. Not only does beer deserve a place on the dinner table, it should not be neglected on the plate either.

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