Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Meat Market

Low and slow is the way to go – when you’re dealing with cheap meat.

Beef brisket and pork shoulder are low-cost cuts of meat that have high concentrations of connective tissue.  Collagen is the major family of connective tissue proteins that contributes to meat texture.  These proteins can be broken down by cooking with low indirect heat and moisture.  Marinating or braising the meat in a high-acid liquid can also help to break down the proteins.  In contrast, cuts of meat with low levels of connective tissue can be made tough if the same methods are used, as the muscle tissue proteins will be more easily denatured.  Chicken breast, fish, and seafood are more tender if prepared with low-acid marinades and rapid cooking techniques.

3H-Imidazo[4,5-f] quinoxalin-2-amine,3,4,8-trimethyl
aka. 4,8-DiMeIQx, a carcinogenic compound
that forms in cooked meat
Beer has a pH of about 4, making it an excellent choice to marinate or braise a tough cut of meat.  However, most marinades do not penetrate more than 1/8” (3 mm) into the muscle.  The main function of a beer marinade is to add flavor.

There is another significant benefit to using beer marinades that may impact your health.  A recent Portuguese study has shown that marinades containing beer are the most effective at reducing the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines in cooked meat.  Beer is also better at maintaining the flavour and texture of the pan-fried steaks when compared to red wine.
Collagen don't stand a chance!

Pulled pork is an excellent example of how the “low and slow” cooking technique acts to tenderize a tough cut of meat.  True pulled pork enthusiasts will insist the roast be prepared using a barbecue or smoker.  However, the smoked paprika in the spice rub mimics the flavour of wood-smoke.

Coleslaw is a necessary component of this meal, and can be served on the side or on the bun.  Try it both ways.  On the day before you plan to serve this feast, mix up the coleslaw and apply the pork rub.  The slow cooker will do the rest of the work.

Beer-Braised Pulled Pork

Coleslaw as a condiment
 3.5 lb (1.5kg) pork shoulder roast

2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt

½ cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup molasses
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle dark beer (can’t go wrong with Guinness)

  1. In a small bowl, combine ingredients for the spice mixture and mix well.
  2. Rub the spice mixture into the roast on all sides. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  3. In 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker combine ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, molasses, and beer. Add pork to the pot and turn to coat with sauce.
  4. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low setting as for 8 to 10 hours.
  5. When pork is tender, remove roast from the pot and transfer to a large bowl.
  6. Transfer liquid to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
  7. Shred the pork shoulder using two forks.
  8. Add shredded pork to saucepan and toss with sauce to combine. Cover and reheat on high before serving.
  9. Serve pulled pork on toasted buns with coleslaw.


"Vegetables?  Sorry; green decorative bullshit"
4 cups cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
¾ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 tsp celery seeds
⅓ cup beer (a honey brown style works well)
¼ cup canola oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, and red bell pepper.
  2. Sprinkle the celery seeds over the mixture and toss to distribute.
  3. Combine beer and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool.
  5. Whisk in the oil, lemon juice, and mustard.
  6. Pour dressing over slaw. Stir until well coated.
  7. Cover coleslaw and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Toss coleslaw prior to serving.
Melo, A., Pinho, O., Ferreira, I. O., Viegas, O., & Petisca, C. (2008). Effect of Beer/Red Wine Marinades on the Formation of Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines in Pan-Fried Beef [electronic resource]. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry, 56(22), 10625-10632.

Viestad, A. (2008). The Myth About Marinades.  The Washington Post, Wed. June 11th, 2008.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Professor Oak

Good beer takes time.  Great beer takes even longer.

“Oak-aging” is a common practice in the production of wine and whiskey, but has recently become popular in the beer industry.  As the beer rests in the barrel, it becomes infused with the oak wood flavor and a hint of the vessel’s previous occupying liquid.  The porous oak wood will also expose the beer to oxygen, which will soften the astringency and mellow the flavors.  Beers of higher alcohol content benefit more from longer aging periods, and thus are more appropriate for this process.

Whiskey casks are no doubt the most popular aging vessel for beer.  Sixteen compounds have been identified by the Scotch Whiskey Research Institute in Edinburgh as the flavour standards for the profiling of whiskey flavour.  These include guaiacol (smoky), vanillin (vanilla), and the so-named whiskey lactone (coconut).

Innis & Gunn is one of the first to market such a product, claiming that their oak-aged beer was “born by a fantastic and delicious accident”.  William Grant & Sons Ltd., a family-owned Scottish whiskey distillery, was looking to produce a blended whisky with the distinct bitter finish of hops.  The distillery contacted Dougal Sharp, head brewer at Scotland’s largest craft brewery, to create a beer that would infuse the oak barrels with the flavor of beer.  The resulting whiskey was okay, but the waste beer from the cask (enthusiastically sampled by the employees) was exceptional.  The beer was marketed under the label “Innis and Gunn”, the middle names of Sharp and his brother.  The brand has been remarkably successful, and has also released varieties aged in Irish whiskey barrels and rum casks.

The Phillips Brewery out of Victoria has some excellent examples of barrel-aging. Take the Double Barrel Scotch Ale – a beer aged in both red wine and scotch barrels.  The beer picks up flavor from both casks, resulting in a flavourful brew with notes of peat and vanilla.  Also try the Hammer Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon-soaked American oak barrels.

This recipe uses one bottle of Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Ale.  There will be a little beer left in the bottle after making the bread and glaze.  Don’t let it go to waste.

Rum Cask Banana Bread

with Innis & Gunn Glaze

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
¾ cup Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Ale
 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup rum
1 egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

½ cup bottle Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Ale
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp rum
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x5” (2L) loaf pan, or line with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, finely mash the bananas.
  5. Add the beer, rum, egg, and oil to the banana mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.
  7. Fold in walnuts if desired.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  10. To make glaze, stir together beer and brown sugar in a small saucepan.
  11. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until mixture coats a spoon.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  13. Let cool and refrigerate before slicing for best results.

Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices

Lee, K. M., Piggott, J. R., & Paterson, A. A. (2000). Perception of whiskey flavour reference compounds by Scottish distillers. Journal Of The Institute Of Brewing, 106(4), 203-208.
Innis & Gunn 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Fruits of Your Labour

It took me a while to warm up to the idea of fruit-flavored beer, but I’ve learned to appreciate it.  I’ll happily admit to enjoying a cold Aprikat at a summer barbecue.  It’s not the idea of fruit beer I find objectionable - just the brands that try to turn disguise alcoholic soda as beer (*cough* Früli).  And the labels that blatantly market to women (Früli again).  Just because it’s pink doesn’t mean I’ll like it more.

Enough venting.  Now for some science.

There are two types of fruit beers you’ll typically see on the shelves: lambic beers (typically from Belgium) and flavored wheat ales.

4-ethyl-phenol = horse flavor.  Yum?

Lambic beers undergo a process known as “spontaneous fermentation”.  The wort is exposed to the air, collecting wild species of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria.  These microorganisms propagate and produce lactic acid, which sours the brew.  Brettanomyces yeasts may also emit 4-ethyl-phenol, a compound that is perceived as “horsey”, and is enjoyed by few.  Fruit is often added to lambics both to complement the acidity, and to mask the “barnyard” flavour of the yeast.  Popular varieties include Kriek (cherry), Framboise (raspberry), and Cassis (blackcurrant).

Do I have a twin?
Non-lambic beers are fermented with s in a controlled environment.  Fruit flavors are most often made from wheat ales, which tend to be light in body and sweeter than barley-malt brews.  As with any generalization though, there are exceptions.  The Raspberry Wheat Ale from Granville Island and the green apple Ephemère from Unibroue are both great examples to begin with.

To make the perfect beersicle, choose a beer that is sweet and low-alcohol.  Thus fruit flavored beers, or beer coolers/cocktails (Shandy anyone?) are ideal.  High alcohol beers will not freeze solid enough, while bitter beers will taste downright abysmal.  Don’t waste your craft oak-aged stout.

I used Alley Kat Brewberry Ale for this recipe, and I’m hoping to make some more soon with Aprikat.  Or Coor’s Lite Iced Tea (abbreviated “CLIT” in my colorful vocabulary).

Beersicles...because I can.

Equipment:       One 6-well popsicle mould

Ingredients:       2 bottles fruit-flavored beer
                        6 tbsp honey, slightly warmed

  1. Pour beer into of the popsicle mould until each well is filled halfway.  Make sure to pour down the side of the mould to minimize the level of foam.
  2. Add the honey directly to each well of the mould and stir to dissolve.
  3. Continue to pour, filling moulds within ¼” of the top.
  4. Insert popsicle sticks and transfer to freezer.
  5. Share with friends.  Not children.  Or don’t – it’s only two beer.

Makes 6 “beersicles”

Rubin, J. (2011). Try a spontaneous' Lambic beer. Toronto Star (Canada).
Mosher, R. (2009). Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ciao, Bella

Pink Pepper IPA.

Italy is not known for beer.  With wine regions like the Chianti Valley and Montepulciano, there is little demand for the mediocre national beer brands.  Peroni, Nastro Azzuro, and Birra Moretti pretty much all taste the same.

However, there has been a surge in the popularity of craft beer in Italy.  A number of smaller breweries have taken to producing beer in the Belgian style, and are creating high-quality craft beers with original flavor adjuncts.

The first one I came across in Rome.  Almond 22 is a brewery in Pescara housed in a former candy shop.  The factory, founded in 1922, used peeled almonds to produce the famous confetti of Sulmona, those multi-colored candies you may have seen at weddings.  I came across the “Pink IPA”, a pale ale using Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Saphyr hops and flavoured with pink peppercorns. The peppercorn flavour was not overpowering, but adds a faint spicy flavor to the brew.
We have a fridge!!!

For almost an entire month, I was only able to drink beer in bars, or suffer through a lukewarm beer in the hotel.  Finally in Sorrento I was able to score some micro-brewed specimens and keep them COLD.  The Ulisse Deluxe Hostel is more luxurious than many hotels I have stayed, at for cheaper than my no-frills room in Rome.  All I really cared about was the fridge.

Fancy beer in a fancy "hostel"
I always thought “Birrificio” was a brand.  It’s not.  It means “brewery” in Italian.

Birrificio Sorrento makes two varieties that make use of two citrus fruit .  I bought a bottle of the “Arancia” (orange) variety, and shared it among my fellow hostellers.  The orange flavor is faint, but adds a zesty touch to the otherwise nutty finish.

You can find a few Italian craft beers in Canada.  Sherbrooke liquor carries good selection from Birrificio Del Ducato and Birrificio Bruton.  Hopefully we will see more of Italy’s developing beer culture in the future.