So, it’s almost Thanksgiving; you’re planning the menu, delegating tasks, decorating the table, all while trying not to blow a fuse (literally and figuratively). When suddenly you think to yourself, why don’t I try something different this year, bring one or two new items to the menu? What better way to do that than with beer! Whether it be with the turkey, the stuffing, or desserts, there are more than a few ways to incorporate beer into a delicious dinner menu.
Turkey is the centerpiece of most everyone’s dinner spread. The most important thing is to not let it dry out and with the help of beer you can make sure that it won’t! Since turkey has a subtle flavor you can really make it shine by using beers that have melanoidin malt in them, such as Brown, Red and Scotch Ales, Dark Lagers, Marzens or Oktoberfests. Melanoidin malt is a specific malt that creates a heavy, malt-forward, full body beer. These malts enhance the Maillard reaction (a reaction in cooking between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its amazing flavor) resulting in a rich and flavorful turkey. Similar to a beer can chicken, you can prepare a beer can turkey using a grill (if the bird is small enough) or if you’re up for a long, long morning, you can smoke it. You can use either a turkey sitter, a tall ceramic stand that holds liquid, or a beer can turkey stand (see picture). Cover your turkey in whatever spice/herb blend you desire, cut the top off the beer can, place it in the stand, put the stand inside a disposable roasting pan, and lower the turkey onto the stand. On the grill it can take 2-3 hours at 350 deg F, but in the smoker it’s more like 6 hours at 250 and you’ll want to baste it every 2 hours. The idea is that you’re creating steam inside the turkey while it cooks to keep it from drying out while giving it great flavor! If you have some time, you could always make a beer brine for your turkey using ingredients like garlic, lemon, celery, bay leaves, onions, brown sugar etc.. Let it marinate for 24-48 hours and then roast it as you would normally.
Stuffing your turkey with a beer bread stuffing, or just making a pan of it for the table are also options. Make your homemade stuffing according to the recipe except substitute 12 oz of the chicken broth for a can of beer. Since stuffing is already heavy I would try using a wheat beer or saison, maybe even a pilsner so as to not overpower the rest of the flavors. Play around a little and add sausage or bacon to the mix. Roasting an acorn squash using beer instead of water in the dish could be something simple yet not expected. Whatever you decide, get ready to impress your guests!
I myself have a love for baking, especially cupcakes. My specialty is alcoholic cupcakes, they’re just so much fun and people love them! I’ve used Baileys, Guinness, Blue Moon, Kahlua, Pink Champagne and a few others. My most recent adventure was a chocolate stout cupcake with a special buttercream frosting. I have made a chocolate stout cupcake before using Guinness with a fresh mint infused whipped cream frosting for St. Patty’s Day, however it’s fall and that called for the beautiful cinnamon flavors in RumChata. Normally when making a chocolate stout cupcake they say to use Guinness. Due to it’s thick, dark nature it tends to enhance the flavors of whatever it is combined with. I decided that I wanted to try something different. Cue Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout! I love this beer; it’s smooth and creamy with undertones of chocolate and espresso. Although those two ingredients are basically in every stout, some have the tendency to be overly robust with espresso, fall flat on the flavor spectrum or leave a dry aftertaste. However, the flavors in this Bell’s creation blend so well together that I thought it would be the perfect solution. I was right! With the help of sour cream and the cream stout, the cupcakes were so moist and didn’t fall apart, yet were not too dense. The frosting was a simple buttercream with a dose of RumChata to give it a nice kick.
You could try your own spin on a chocolate stout cake, Guinness gingerbread cake, bacon maple ale ice cream to go with your pies, pumpkin beer bread, or a slight variation, pumpkin beer bread pudding. If you’re a Harry Potter fan like myself, you could try making your own homemade Butterbeer, though not actual beer, it could be a tasty alternative to after dinner coffee! There are endless possibilities when it comes to incorporating beer into your cooking or baking. Just get creative, don’t be afraid to mess up and be willing to try again. With so many delicious recipes to explore, I hope at least one makes its way to your table; spreading fascination and smiles across everyone’s faces, all thanks to beer!