Cooking up a Good Beer
Today’s guest blog post comes from Lisa Rough, co-owner and brewer at Tin Dog Brewing in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Did you know they’re one of a few dog-friendly breweries in Seattle? She writes about the brewing process and what inspires her beer recipes. Harkening to her Irish roots, Lisa also includes some delicious St. Patrick’s Day food recipes using or to serve with beer. Slainté!
I am a creative person who loves to create beer recipes. Where the other parts of brewing are a bit tedious, like chopping the vegetables or waiting for something to cook, recipe making is where the left brain comes into play and is incredibly fun. I like to imagine what flavors would blend and put ideas together. Sometimes the result is awesome and sometimes not so much, but the process is always an enjoyable one and a learning experience!
You would be surprised how much brewing is related to cooking. Without a well thought out beer recipe, you will have a very bland result. Each ingredient is essential, but these ingredients must be well blended and in harmony with one another. There are 4 elements to consider when developing beer recipes: grains, hops, yeast and spices/other flavors.
1. Malts are like coffee. The darker the roast the stronger the flavor and the darker the color of your beer. You use a combination of lighter and darker roasts for the result you want. For a lighter beer, lighter roasts and less malt. For a darker beer, darker roasts and more malt. Barley is the primary malt in all beers, but wheat, rye and oats are also used.
Malt complexity is the number of malts a beer contains. It is the baseline to all beers, the foundation. It is what produces that first taste and the last, the richness, the depth of a beer. It is like the meat and all the tasty juices and broth. If you just use water with meat it’s okay. But if you use bouillon or a flavored stock, your recipe pops.
2. The hops are like spices in beer recipes. You need to use your nose to catch the aroma. Some hops are earthy and some are spicy. Some are subtle and some are pungent. There are those with a hint of fruit-melon, strawberry and those with citrus notes. There are the lighter, flower blossom scents and the strong, pine needle scents. You want to put together those in harmony with each other and in harmony with the malt profile — the type of malts you using.
3. Yeast is an under-valued ingredient in beer. It can give the beer a lot of flavor and bring out spicy notes even when that spice is not used. We use primarily Belgian yeast in our beer because it adds so much flavor. Saison yeast gives a pepper and clove flavor even if no spice is used. Abbey yeast lends a citrus note. Wit yeast can give a banana taste, which you can bring out with hops with a tropical fruit flavor.
4. Finally, as in cooking, spices bring all the flavors together and accent the flavors you want to highlight. Use spices that will blend well with the hops you choose-Indian coriander with citrus hops, for example. Orange, Grapefruit and lemon zest go well with this ingredient pairing. For a lighter beer and hops, lavender, chamomile or hibiscus will bring out floral notes. For a darker, full-bodied beer stronger spices-cinnamon, cloves, anise work well.
Like wine, beer is great paired with food. Lighter beer with chicken or fish that is lightly spiced. Medium bodied beer with a hop-forward profile (stronger more pine flavored hops typically found in an IPA) with spicy foods such as curry or Mexican food. Darker beers, such as Stout, with dessert (we make a mean Stout float) or a rich meat stew.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, which is a great time to both drink dark beer and use dark beer in recipes. Here are some of my favorite recipes made with rich, flavorful stout beer.
And some classic Irish Recipes without a beer ingredient, but great with a good beer! I made pasties for the St. Patrick’s Day party at our brewery last year. My grandmother was a Kilroy who grew up in Butte, Montana, a town that grew up around miners, Irish and Cornish. The story goes that the miners needed something they could carry into the mines that they could hold in their hands and not get too dirty so they came up with unique meat pies called pasties. There was enough extra crust to throw the dirty part away. The Irish and Cornish both made their own version. Of course, me being Irish and this being St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish prevail!