Cooking with beer has become very popular in recent years. Chefs are experimenting a lot and also in the kitchen of our own brewery pub – Michelle’s Pub & Brasserie – classic dishes get an upgrade based on Kasteel beer, Filou or Bacchus. Our guide Nico Vanderheeren regularly cooks with our specialty beers. That’s why he likes to share some tips for cooking with beer.
From Tuesday to Saturday, Nico leads the brewery visits at Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck. Our walking encyclopaedia knows all about our specialty beers and the rich history of the most modern brewery in Europe. In his spare time, Nico is also a hobby chef who likes to experiment. From a stew prepared with Kasteel Donker to mussels with St-Louis Gueuze: Nico gives you five tips to pimp dishes with our Belgian specialty beers!
# 1 | Cooking with beer is not the same as foodpairing
First of all, Nico wants to discuss the difference between cooking with beer and foodpairing with beer. “When you cook with beer, the beer is part of your dish, it’s an ingredient. That does not necessarily mean that you have to drink the same beer with your dish.” On the menu of Michelle’s Pub & Brasserie, there are colour codes for each dish that match a specialty beer. “For example, if you look on the menu at the pork cheeks braised in Kasteel Donker, you won’t see Kasteel Donker as a foodpairing tip. The taste of Kasteel Donker should not dominate, that’s why we rather recommend a Cuvée du Château with this dish,” explains Nico.
If you cook with beer at home, it’s of course easier to serve the leftover beer with your dish. “Don’t cook with a 75cl bottle of beer, because you don’t need all that beer to cook. Choose rather a 33 cl bottle so you don’t have too much beer left and you can still choose to serve a different beer with your dish. You will notice that the flavours of both the beer and the dish come out better.”
#2 | Consider the bitterness of the beer
Nico knows all too well that cooking with beer is not an exact science. “Cooking with beer is difficult because you have to deal with the bitterness of the beer. Each beer also has a different bitterness and you really have to get that under control. Therefore, don’t be discouraged if your first dish of beer doesn’t succeed. Once you know how to balance the bitterness, it’s a pleasure to cook with beer”.
Most bitter beers are usually blonde beers. “With a Kasteel Rouge, a St-Louis Gueuze or a Bacchus Flemish Old Brown, bitterness plays a less important role. Let’s say you can let those beers simmer a little longer without ruining the dish”, laughs Nico.
#3 | Cooking with strong blonde canned beer
The blonde beers are the more difficult beers to cook with. “In general, top-fermented blonde specialty beers taste very well with fish and shellfish dishes. In principle, you can replace everything you serve with a white wine sauce with a sauce with a blonde beer”. A Filou, for example? “You can do a lot with Filou, but you have to be careful. Filou is refermented in the bottle and should therefore only be added at the last minute so that the beer can certainly not reduce. In that case you only taste the bitterness of the beer.”
To avoid this, Nico recommends using a canned Filou beer for cooking. “Canned Filou has no secondary fermentation and the beer is less bitter. The cans are also available in a smaller size of 25 cl, so you will never have too much leftover. A bit of Filou for the sauce and a bit for the chef, ideal right?”
# 4 | Cooking for dummies: start with Kasteel Rouge
Do you feel like cooking with beer, but don’t you know where to start? Start with Kasteel Rouge. “Kasteel Rouge is neither too high nor too low in alcohol. It is neither too sweet nor too sour. It is not a typical fruit beer, yet it offers that subtle fruit flavour. Our Rouge is in between everything, which makes it such a versatile beer to cook with. It is therefore highly recommended for the not so experienced home chefs. Prepare a stew or a dessert with Kasteel Rouge: the possibilities are enormous and you really can’t do much wrong with it.”
The Bacchus beers are also great to start with. “Both Bacchus Flemish Old Brown and the Raspberry or Cherry Beer do very well in combination with winter dishes. With Bacchus, you don’t have to worry about bitterness. The sour notes, for example, go well with calf liver and sweetbread. Combine such a piece of meat with a sauce of shallots and Bacchus Raspberry and you will be amazed by your own cooking skills!”
# 5 | Dare to cook with beer
Nico concludes with the most important tip of all: “Daring is a must in the kitchen. There’s no accounting for taste and that’s why you have to experiment. Do you have little experience? Then start with something simple like a Kasteel Rouge or a Bacchus Raspberry Beer. Are you an experienced hobby chef and do you dare a little more? Then dare a blonde top-fermented beer such as our Filou or Kasteel Tripel. Cooking is a feeling and you decide how much beer you add to a dish. Dare, experiment and taste. And above all: don’t give up. Does a dish fail? Start again and learn from your own mistakes”, Nico concludes.
Do you regularly cook with our specialty beer or do you have a nice dish yourself? Let us know and share the result on our social media!