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Cooking With Beer – The Ultimate Guide

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Beer is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks and is the most popular alcoholic beverage consumed to date. Over the hundreds and hundreds of decades, and especially with the introduction of modern technology in beer production, there are thousands of different types of beers.

Not only has beer evolved from its production methods, base ingredients used, and the ultimate uses of it, but it has also evolved into the craftsmanship of brewers discovering and developing new flavors and flavor combinations.

Beer has exceeded many expectations and even if you are not the biggest fan of beer, we can guarantee you there will be loads out there that you will love.

Have you ever heard of cooking with beer? How does it work and how does it affect your food? How do you incorporate it? Which beers do you use for what purposes?

How do you cook with beer? Beer is great for marinating or tenderizing meats, adding flavor to bread, and adding a unique twist to desserts. Beer helps to moisten food and can help baked goods rise since it contains yeast. You can use any type of beer in cooking, and it’s important to choose the right beer for your recipe.

There are literally an endless amount of questions regarding beer, with so few compact guides when it comes to cooking with beer specifically.

Well, lucky for you, we have compiled The Ultimate Guide To Cooking With Beer. You can use this guide as your one-stop-shop for any and all the information you could possibly need.

How Beer Is Made

We will not be doing a deep-dive into the exact production of beers and all the types there are, as that is a whole book on its own. We will however give a brief overview of how it works, so you can later understand how each aspect will affect your food and its final flavor. 

Beer is made using four basic ingredients:

  • Grains
  • Water
  • Hops
  • Yeast

The most basic idea (and goal for brewers) is to extract the sugars from the grains to convert into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) to ultimately create beer.

Step 1: Malting

The malting process is when the grains are germinated by stepping them until they have a moisture content of around 45%. Thereafter the grains are dried and roasted.

Step 2: Mash and lauter

The grains are stepped again to activate the starch enzymes which causes the grains to release sugars. The water is drained, leaving a sweet syrupy liquid. Lautering is used to remove any additional grains left.

Step 3: Adding hops

Hops and other spices are added to the liquid for flavor. This is where most beers get their individual unique aromatic notes and flavors.

Hops are responsible for the bitterness of the mixture i.e. the more hops, the more bitter the beer. There are also over 150 variants of hops, each producing its own flavor.

Step 4: Fermentation

This is one of the final steps before bottling, which entails yeast added to the mixture to ferment (break down)  the sugars.

Just as the types of hops will affect the flavor, the type of yeast will also have a huge effect.

Every single step in the process, from harvesting to eventually bottling (storing) will determine the final outcome of appearance, aroma, flavor, and mouth-feel. All these factors must be taken into consideration when using food.

Just as wines are paired with food, so are beers and it is just as important to know your flavor pairings.

Types Of Beer

Beers are divided into two main categories: ales and lagers.


Ales are fermented at higher temperatures and are ready to drink in around 3 weeks.

Ales is a much larger category of beer than lagers and has many sub-categories (too many to all mention).

Below are the most important categories you should be familiar with and that will most likely be used in recipes:

  • Porter
  • Stout
  • Brown Ales
  • Amber/Red Ales
  • Pale Ales


Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures than ales and then stored for weeks to months at almost freezing temperatures.

There are 5 main types of lagers, each also having various sub-categories. Each type of lager has unique characteristics and flavors. There isn’t a beer in the world that tastes the same and that’s what makes it so exciting.

Park Lager Amber Lager Bock Dark Lager Speciality Lager
American Light Lager Marzen/Oktoberfest Traditional Bock Munich Dunkel Winter warmers / holiday beers
Pilsner Vienna Lager Helles Bock Schwarzbier Herb & Spice
Dortmunder Rauchbiew Maibock
Munich Helles


How Beer Can Be Used In Cooking

As you can see from the very brief breakdown of how beers are made and what types of beers there are, just imagine how many different types each subcategory has as well.

Every single step in the production process, from harvesting ingredients to the final bottling methods, will determine the outcome of the final flavor and quality.

This means there is an infinite amount of flavors, textures, and characteristics and therefore uses. Each different beer (not only category but the brand of beer and even the year it was made) will determine the final flavor of the food you use it with.

Beers can be used as an ingredient in stews, casseroles, soups, and all those kinds of braised recipes and dishes.

They can also be used to create beautiful sauces and marinades to accompany many other dishes and provide extra flavor.

Beers are often used to lighten up cooking batters for crispy fish, onion rings, or virtually any other deep-fried food item – yes, that includes chicken.

There is also a very popular cooking method using an opened beer can, where the can is placed inside a chicken or turkey cavity to allow the contents (beer) to evaporate inside the cavity creating a very moist and flavorful roast chicken.

Surprisingly, there are also a large number of beers that can be used to prepare seafood dishes. Jamaican lagers work great for smoky barbecue fish.

Have you ever thought about adding beer to a cake batter? Well, you should try it!

Beer contains natural yeast which will allow the beer to act as flavorant, a consistency adjuster, and a raising agent in cakes and bakes.

Lastly, beers can be used to create the most flavorful bread you have ever tasted. As with cakes, they act as a flavorant and a raising agent. The beer will produce excellent and unique flavor and texture for many breads.

What Are Good Beers For Cooking?

It’s all about flavor pairings. As you know, wine is often paired with foods that it compliments best. These pairings apply to both using the wine as a drinking accompaniment and using the wine in the food itself.

There are no good or bad beers to use in food. You have to look at what you want to use the beer in (marinades, cakes, breads) and what the flavor profile is you are going for (smokey, yeasty, pungent, light, etc.).

In the end, it is entirely up to you and your personal preference and you will have to do a lot of experimenting to achieve the correct flavor.

Here is a brief example of beers and food pairings. This will also help you choose (flavor-wise anyway) which types of beers to use with which foods or ingredients.

Remember, this doesn’t mean all the beers in this category will fit nicely. You still have to experiment with different brands, etc. 

This is a great starting point to help guide you.

Food component Examples of ingredients Examples of beer types
Grains Farro Quinoa Arborio rice Wild rice Polenta American Amber Ale
Protector Organic American Amber Ale
Societe The Heiress Pilsner
Beans & Legumes Green beans Butter beans Lentils Chickpeas Fava beans Split peas Brown Ale
Modern Times Black House Coffee Ale
Garage Imperial Oatmeal Brown Ale
Shellfish Lobster Shrimp Crab Clams Saison
Allagash Saison Violette
Enegren Schoner Tag
Rich meats Lamb Beef loin Beef rib-eye American Brett
Belgian-style Flanders
Crooked Stave Wild Brett

Pork Virtually any pork cut Indian Pale Ale
Belgian-style Dubbel
AleSmith for Hope Hazy IPA

Poultry Chicken Turkey Pale Lager Black Plague Acid Drop Light Lager
Game birds Duck Guinea fowl Quail American Pale Ale
American Brown Ale
Cooperage Captain Curt Pale Ale
Grilled vegetables Virtually any grilled vegetable Dry Stout
German-style Schwarzbier
AleSmith Speedway Stout

Does Beer Lose Alcohol When Cooked?

Like any alcoholic liquid (wines, beers, hard liquors, etc.), the alcohol itself does evaporate as the cooking process continues.

When stirring beer into a hot liquid such as soup, it immediately loses around 15% of its ABV (alcohol by volume) content.

If you are simmering a liquid for around 15 minutes, let’s say to make mulled wine, that percentage will increase to about 20%.

If you are using alcohol to make curries or stews which requires an hour of simmering, about 75% of the alcohol will evaporate during that time.

For an even longer cooking period, such as making roasts that need to cook for about 2 and a half hours (2 hours 30 minutes), almost all the alcohol will have evaporated, 95% to be specific.

You won’t ever be able to evaporate 100% of the alcohol so it should still be used in moderation.

Is Cooking With Beer Healthy?

Would you be surprised if we told you that cooking with beer can actually be healthy!

On average, a normal 12-ounce bottle of beer contains about 150 calories. Most beers are free of cholesterol and any type of fat.

It is also very low in sodium (salt) and surprisingly high in many vitamins and minerals such as B-type vitamins, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus.

Now, of course, when beer is consumed as is, excessive amounts of alcohol won’t be healthy for any part of your body.  Excessive alcohol consumption can cause many problems with your liver, digestive system, brain function, heart problems, and motor functions.

But, when cooking with beer, because the alcohol evaporates and therefore the calories, it can be a great way to add flavor to your dish as opposed to other methods and the addition of ingredients.

Another great aspect of cooking with beer, all the minerals and vitamins stay intact and doesn’t evaporate with the alcohol. This means that you have added nutritional value when using beer instead of liquids such as water or broth.

Dos And Don’ts When Cooking With Beer

Although cooking with beer doesn’t have to be rocket science, there are a few dos and don’ts you have to keep in mind.


  • Substitute all of the liquid the recipe calls for (the water or stock) with beer. Beer will add more flavor and is healthier than some of the original ingredients used.
  • Think of the flavor pairings of the food you are making and the beer you are using. Not all beers go with all foods – just like wine.
  • Think about the moisture content. By marinating meat in beer before cooking, it allows the meat to absorb all the moisture, creating a soft, juicy final product.


  • Do not use large amounts of alcohol, no matter how low alcohol percentage it has when cooking food. The flavor will overpower the flavor of the main ingredients and can also produce and enhance strange flavors.
  • Alcohol cannot completely evaporate during cooking. Thus, make sure it is safe to consume by your guests and that you, again, don’t use excessive amounts.
  • Stay away from fire! Because there will always be alcohol left after cooking, unless you are trained in the art of flambe, do not have the food close to the fire.

If you are preparing food on an open fire, use caution, and always have fire extinguishers or blankets close-by.

What Does Cooking Meat In Beer Do?

There are tons of ways to use beer in the meat cooking process.

When marinating your piece of meat in beer, the beer will help tenderize the meat and add tons of flavors. Beer also adds tons of nutritional value as we have already discussed.

Beer contains enzymes that will help break down any tough fibers that the piece of meat has and essentially tenderize it. This will make the meat much more tender and flavorful.

Most forms of cooking using beer will help the meat tenderize – especially the longer cooking methods.

Beer will also impart a lot of flavor. This is amazing because the type and flavor of beer your use will be imparted into the meat you are marinating.

Beer can be used as a basting ingredient during roasting or grilling. The beer will impart its rich and dark color in the basting sauce which will be infused in the piece of meat during cooking.

If beer is used instead of water (so not diluted) it can enhance the flavors of the ingredients and meat in a stew. The alcohol evaporates leaving only the flavors of the beer to do its thing.

How To Pair Meat And Beer

Using beer to help cook meat is a very popular method. There are however a few tips and tricks we can give you to help you choose the correct beer for your meat.

Choose similar flavors

For example, light beers (such as a pale lager), pairs well with light foods (such as a simple chicken sandwich).

If you are planning to use a dish with lemons, try using a beer with lemon flavors (or similar flavors) such as the Robinsons Trooper Ale (Iron Maiden Beer).

Use contrasting flavors

We know what we just said about matching flavors, however, if you are feeling adventurous, try using contrasting beer and food flavors (that are still complimentary).

For example, pair the sweet flavors from grilled food items such as barbecue pork ribs with a more bitter tasting beer, like this Sunriver Vicious Mosquito IPA

Use subtle flavors

You can never go wrong with a pairing is you use lighter beers with subtle flavors. These flavors also won’t overpower the food in any way.

This Duck Foot Bing Logger Export Lager is a great example of a great tasting light beer. 

Cleansing flavors

When preparing fatty, fried, or spicy meals, it is important to choose refreshing beers such as a light, crisp brew. Check out this Almanac Vibes Hoppy Pilsner

Below is a chart of our favorite meat and beer pairings that can all be found on https://craftshack.com/.

Item Types of beer Try this
Turkey (roasted) Dark malts
Amber ales
Ground Breaker Dark Ale
Protector Organic American Amber Ale
Beefsteak (grilled)
Red ale

Evans Joaquin Dead Mexican Red Ale
Porterhouse steak (grilled) Porters Left Hand Hard Wired NITRO Coffee Porter
Second Chance Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter
Rare steak and raw beef (steak tartare) Stout Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout
Black Plaque Medusa Imperial Milk Stout
Pulled pork (make sure the base flavor matches the type of beer) Pale Ales

AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394
Pulled pork (for spicy pulled pork dishes) Honey Ale 

Pizza Port California Honey Ale
Beef burgers (high-fat content)
Pale Ale Duck Foot Old Bro Hazy Pale Ale
Beef burgers (lean) Pilsner Fremont Golden Pilsner
Vegetarian burgers (grilled vegetables) Wheat beers Maui Pineapple Mana Wheat
Chicken Wings (spicy buffalo) Pale Ales
Indian Pale Ales
Temescal Patio Pale Ale
Abnormal Boss Pour IPA
Chicken Wings (spiced dry rub) Brown Ale Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale
Chicken Wings (grilled barbeque) Porters Barrel Brothers Dark Sarcasm Porter
Roast Chicken  Amber Ales
German-style Lagers
Bell’s Amber Ale
Enegren Rasenmaher-Bier Lager

Can You Bake With Beer?

There are tons of ways you can bake with beers in both the savory and sweet categories. You can make various cakes, pancakes, muffins, biscuits, and even breads.

Beer will act as a flavoring ingredient as well as have other functions. Because beer has yeast (and carbonation) in it, it will be able to act as a leavening agent in certain bakes and allow the item to rise during cooking/ baking.

There are however a few rules you would have to follow when baking with beer, as baked goods are always very technical and require exact amounts and methods.

How To Choose A Beer For Dessert Items

When choosing to bake with beer, it is always important to consider the flavor profile of the item and beer first.

When baking cakes and dessert items, always start with either porters or stouts. Because of the way they are produced (brewed with roasted malt), they have hints of cocoa and coffee in them.

The best beers for desserts:

  • Porters have a more chocolate flavor profile and have a much less bitter taste than stouts.
  • Stouts will work perfectly with coffee-flavored dishes as they lean towards more bitter, intense coffee flavors.
  • Brown Ales also have a very nice flavor profile of nuttiness and hints of caramels. These will work especially great with cookies and sweet sauces.
  • Amber Ale is also a great dessert beer due to its complex, yet easy-going flavor queues.

Tips For Making Desserts With Beer

It is important to use an unopened beer that has been stored at room temperature. In general, using room temperature ingredients to make dessert items are very beneficial and highly recommended.

Pour out the room temperature beer and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before incorporating it into the recipe. This will allow the foam to disappear and the excessive carbonation to be released.

Beer goes great with full-fat dairy products, not the low-fat or fat-free kinds. Beer is acidic and has the potential to curdle lower-fat ingredients.

Desserts that use beer are best made and consumed fresh. The flavor of beer once opened can change considerably and will alter the flavor of your dessert.

You can experiment with different flavors of beers and try using this table below to choose the best beer for your desserts.

Items Types of beers Try this
New York Cheesecake Lambic beers 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze
Tiramisu or Chocolate Chip cookies Brown Ale Garage Imperial Oatmeal Brown Ale
Ice-cream (butterscotch) Sour beers
Prairie Slush Sour
Carrot cake Indian Pale Ale
Imperial Red Ale
El Segundo Broken Skull IPA
Creme Brulee Belgium-styled Quad
Indian Pale Ale

Urban Roots Where Our Hearts Truly Lie
Key Lime Pie Hefeweizen Enegren Schoner Tag
Lemon Shortbread Pilsner Brouwerij West Popfuji Pilsner
Orange sorbet Witbier Avery Liliko-i Kepolo Passionfruit Witbier
Spice cake Indian Pale Ale 32 North Nelson IPA
Caramel Apple Tart Brown Ale Modern Times Black House Coffee Ale
Pumpkin flan Pale Ale Ground Breaker Inclusion Dry Hopped Pale Ale

None of these flavor pairings are set in stone and the only way to know what does and does not pair well is to try and experiment on your own.

How To Choose A Beer For Making Bread

It is very possible, and we would even highly recommend you trying to bake bread using only beer (no yeast or other more traditional leavening agents). 

It is however important to choose the correct beer for the bread you want to make. As always, we recommend you experimenting with different kinds of beers on your own to yield the best result possible for your preference.

Here are some points to take into consideration when baking bread with beers:

  • Brown ales, stouts, and some porters work best when it comes to bread making (flavor-wise at least).
    • If you use a beer that has too intense of a flavor (too hoppy), it will result in a very bitter loaf. However, if you use a beer that has too little flavor, you won’t taste beer at all.
  • When you are substituting other liquid ingredients in the bread recipe (such as milk or buttermilk), remember that you are removing all of the fat that the bread needs to create a balanced flavor and texture.
    • So, it is important to think about how you will incorporate fat back into your dough. This is a trial-and-error exercise.
  • Remember to always allow your beer to come to room temperature to yield better results.
    • Unlike when baking desserts, do not allow the beer to stand open for a while. You want to have the most carbonation possible to allow the bread to rise during baking.

Best Beers To Use For Bread Making

Like we mentioned, brown ales, stouts, and porters are the safest options to choose for making breads.

Here are a few options for making bread with beer:

As an added bonus to what we hope was a super helpful guide to cooking with beer, we’ve included this video by Tasty on YouTube of 6 different ways to cook with beer. Enjoy!

Up Next: The Best Cooking Wines For Beef

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