Cooking with beer

Listen to this article

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a drunk. I just love beer. This popular beverage is great for cooking, each variety adding a different certain something to a dish, even though beer often gets a reputation as wine’s low-class cousin. There’s more to the brew than the big three labels let you think. There’s more flavor, body and character to this beverage than urine-colored fizz.

Don’t be afraid to try a beer that isn’t your norm. I encourage you to go to a store that lets you create your own six pack and try styles that are new to you. My husband loves hoppy IPAs, while I’m a sucker for porters and stouts – or anything with a dark roasted malt, but we don’t let that narrow our tastes. With craft brews and microbreweries growing more and more popular, there’s always something new to try.

This week I take beer out of the bottle and into other parts of the kitchen. From the soup pot to the slow cooker, I have three supper ideas that are hearty, easy and are great for the coming fall.

I found this recipe on and adjusted it just a bit to my tastes. When I saw in the forecast last weekend that it was cooling down some around here (I don’t bode well with summer) I got excited at the aspect of the possibility of autumn being around the corner.

However, the day I made this soup, it was a humid and miserable reminder that while the temp was about 10 degrees lower than the norm for August, it was still very much summer indeed. I hate getting my hopes up like that.

Cheddar and Ale soup. (Photo by Sally Michaelis)

Cheddar and ale soup

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 medium carrot, minced
  • 1 small stalk celery, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (one 12-ounce bottle) wheat ale
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 12 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add the onion and shallot to the pot containing the bacon drippings and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the potato, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring to coat the vegetables, until the mixture begins to brown on the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes.

Gradually whisk in the ale, chicken stock, and half-and-half. Add the bay leaf and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the cayenne and sherry and allow to cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Removed the bay leaf. Slowly whisk in the cheese and thyme until the cheese melts. Stir in the fried bacon, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

This recipe is what got the ball rolling. It caught my attention on the Food Network, then again on Pinterest, and I decided with beer, cheese and bacon, I couldn’t really go wrong.

This is another great crock pot meal, cooking the sides along with the meat, easy to throw together before work and leave for most of the day – doubly so if your slow cooker has a timer setting.

Cheddar Ale Chicken and veggies with rice pilaf. (Photo by Sally Michaelis)

Cheddar-beer chicken

  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced large
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 cup frozen diced green pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 can (10-ounce) condensed cheddar cheese soup
  • ¾ cup amber ale
  • ¾ cup bacon crumbles

In a slow cooker, combine onion, potatoes, and green peppers. Season both sides of chicken breasts with garlic salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker on top of vegetables.

In a small bowl, stir together cheddar soup, beer, and bacon. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low setting for 3.5 to 4.5 hours.

Few things go with pork and sauerkraut like beer does. Stereotypical of my family’s heritage?

Yes. Tasty? You’d better believe it. While I’m not a fan of adding sugar to my sauerkraut to take off the edge, in this case it brings out the better parts of the beer, so I’ll do it. (Any other time I tease people who can’t handle sauerkraut without sugar.)

Ale roasted pork and saurkraut with potatoes and green beans.

Ale’d pork and sauerkraut

  • 1 can sauerkraut
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 bottle amber ale
  • 2 lb. pork roast

Cover the bottom of a baking dish with sauerkraut, sprinkle in sugar, then pour over half of the ale. Place on top the pork roast, salt and pepper to taste, pour the rest of the ale over it. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for an hour. The best possible thing to pair with this dish is potatoes, made by your preference.

Tip of the week: When trying a new recipe, or even one you haven’t made in a while, take a few minutes to read through the recipe before starting to cook. It’s good to know what to expecting for each coming step.