When we suggest cooking with beer, we don’t mean stand by the stove with a Bud Light in your paw. Like wine, beer lends itself well to cuisine. Techniques like braising, deglazing or even just adding a slog to a pot of soup can enhance flavor the same way a fine Cabernet can. It adds depth to sauces and lightness to batters, and with all the flavors present in today’s local microbrews, including beer in your St. Patty’s Day spread is easier than ever.
The syrupy notes found in the Jefferson Street Orange Honey Wheat Ale (brewed in Lynchburg) add a fruity, light sweetness to Beer Bread, while the crispness of a Nellysford-based Devil’s Backbone Gold Leaf Lager contributes a bright edge to beer-battered fish.
The rich malt-forward Brown Ale from Legend Brewing Company (Richmond) adds the slightest amount of toasted caramel sweetness to your favorite corned beef and cabbage recipe, while Crozet’s Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA cuts through the rich creaminess of Colcannon, a traditional Irish recipe of potatoes, kale and butter. To avoid bitterness, add this hoppy brew at the end before serving.
St. George’s Porter (based in Hampton), a gorgeous reddish-black ale, perfectly balances chocolate with hops, and offers a deep dimension of beefy flavor to any traditional shepherd’s pie. Interested in dessert? Bake a chocolate stout cake made with Blue Mountain Brewery’s Dark Hollow Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Stout. When its deep, dark, lush, chocolatey, roasty flavors hit your palate, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to beer heaven. —Jenée Libby
Make it at home
To prepare Colcannon, boil 1 lb. kale in lightly salted water. Drain well and keep warm. Peel, quarter and boil 3 lbs. potatoes in lightly salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Saute a chopped onion in 1 tbsp. butter for about 5 minutes. Add 4 oz. of cream and 2 tbsp. (or more) of butter, a big pinch of dill and a pinch of nutmeg. Heat through until butter is melted.
Mash the potatoes, mightily with a potato masher (not a blender!), until there are no lumps. Chop the kale finely. Melt the rest of the butter and set it aside. In a deeply warmed large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, kale, onion-butter-cream mix and stir gently. Drizzle in ¼ cup of the IPA while stirring gently. Check the seasoning—you may need to add a little salt and pepper.
To serve, make a mound of the mixture in individual soup bowls. Create a crater at the mound’s top and fill it with the reserved melted butter.
Get your growl on
You can pick up an earth-friendly two liter growler at several local vendors:
Beer Run will sell you one for $20 and will fill it for the price of three 16-ounce pints (prices vary by brew).
South Street Brewery carries two sizes: one liter ($4) or two liter ($15). Fill the big one with any of their standard line beers for $8.50 (or top off the little guy for $5).
Head out to Starr Hill in Crozet for the limited edition “fancy-handled” number ($31) or stick with the standard ($26) and your first fill is included in the price. A refill of the standard lineup will run you $8.50 (or less, if you’re getting the sale brew). Top off with “Super Premium” and expect to pay $18, which is a bargain, considering many of these small batches aren’t packaged for general sale.
Take the drive to Devil’s Backbone in Nelson County for an $8 growler, filled for $10-16. And swing by Blue Mountain and fill ($7.50-$19) their $19 bottle with 68 ounces of microbrewed joy.
At Mellow Mushroom, growlers run you $7 and the cost of a pitcher ($10-20 depending on which of the restaurant’s 40 draft beers you choose) to fill it.
Back in the city at Whole Foods, pay $3.99 for the bottle and $10.99-12.99 to fill it.—Christy Baker
Raising the bar snacks
Double fisting with beer in one hand and snacks in the other? A cold beer is good with just about everything, but some pairings elevate the most humble bar offerings to divine heights.
Buffalo wings: A white beer’s flavors of wheat, malted barley, coriander, and orange peel provide a slightly sweet and aromatic foil to wings’ smoky heat.
Raw oysters: Bivalve-lovers slurp up a classic pairing that pits oysters’ sea-salty, mineral finish with stout’s roasted, creamy sweetness.
Nachos: Order from over the border when salsa, jalapeños, and cheese are involved. The light and refreshing pilsener-style lagers from Mexico are nachos’ best amigo.
Burgers and fries: There’s nothing more American than this duo and, while IPA (India Pale Ale) was first brewed in England, America has taken this beer and run with it. Its hoppy bitterness cuts through the richness of a burger (and the cheese and bacon that may top it). —Megan Headley