With a background in fine dining and cooking with wine, executive chef at New Holland Brewing - The Knickerbocker, Dale Beaubien, has reset his approach as of recently.
Cooking with beer wasn’t a first thought …
Cooking with beer wasn’t a first thought and it wasn’t until New Holland Brewing - The Knickerbocker partner Fred Bueltmann caught the kitchen team using wine to make sausage, and told the kitchen that the new maxim was cooking with beer.
“It took our lid off, he told us anywhere a recipe uses wine, you can use beer,” Beaubien said. “It stays with us. When someone asks for wine, we say ‘you should use beer.’”
Fact: New Holland Brewing - The Knickerbocker partner Fred Bueltmann wrote a book called the Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy, which tackles beer as more than just a beverage and as a tool in culinary adventures.
Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello
The simplest item to be supercharged with beer on The Knickerbocker menu? Chicken wings. Beaubien said a simple brine made with New Holland Brewing’s Sun Dog, an amber ale, adds an incredible maltiness and caramelized sugars, leading to a seemingly much more complex recipe than it really is.
Beaubien said the restaurant makes a point to feature beer in the menu items, in hopes of offering food that customers are unlikely to get anywhere else.
“We feel it makes a great experience,” he said. “It can work in desserts or savory, just depends on the beer.”
New Holland Brewing’s Rules to Cooking with Beer:
There are a few rules Beaubien said are to be followed when working with beer and two basic ways to cook with beer.
Before looking at a food, it’s important to take note of whether a beer is hoppy or malty, as that will greatly affect the final outcome.
If you're new to cooking with beer, gradually add different beers to a variety of meals to see what tastes you prefer.
Photo credit: Lyndsay Daly
When to Use IPAs and Pale Ales
Beaubien suggests using hoppy beers — like IPAs and pale ales — in a brine for poultry and fish.
“The hops lend nice grassiness and herbal notes to the food,” Beaubien said.
A simple brine can be made with a cup of salt to a gallon of water and a gallon of beer, along with optional aromatics, Beaubien suggests fennel to pair well with hops.
When to Use Malty Craft Beers
Hoppy beers, however, don’t do well when reduced down.
“Those good hop qualities get bitter fast,” he said.
Instead, when looking to make a stew a cook should look toward a malty brew.
New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, works extremely well for this use, Beaubien said.
Malty beers can be reduced for stewing and braising meats, he said, as well as desserts.
The Knickerbocker uses Dragon’s Milk as the foundation of a crackerjack recipe, adding sugar and reducing it down to a syrup.
Other ways to cook with beer include using hot wort, the pre-fermented liquid in the brewing process. Beaubien said he’s used wort for pho broth and it worked really well.
When it comes to choosing a beer to pair with a beer-infused meal, Beaubien said it falls back to relatively simple pairing advice: beer can be complementary or contrasting.
In any case, cooking or pairing, Beaubien said it’s easy to just follow the rules of wine, but substitute beer.
New Holland Brewing - The Knickerbocker isn’t the only establishment in Grand Rapids that cooks with beer. In fact, Grand Rapids hosts, Cool Brews. Hot Eats., a month-long celebration from February 15-March 15 dedicated to serving beer-infused items.