Inside the Cooking With Beer session at Vail’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival |

Inside the Cooking With Beer session at Vail’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival

This blackened shrimp and corn chowder is able to restore even the most waterlogged sailor. Fresh shrimp from the sea gives this an extra salty kick. Pair with an amber ale to fortify you against the elements.
Photography copyright Lara Ferroni |

From bottle to bowl

Here are a couple of recipes from “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” by John Holl, to get you started with your kitchen craft-beer experiments.

Blackened Shrimp & Corn Chowder

Yields 8 to 10 servings

This hearty chowder is able to restore even the most waterlogged sailor. Fresh shrimp from the sea gives this an extra salty kick. Pair with an amber ale to fortify you against the elements and for what’s next. Serve with oyster crackers, tortilla chips, cornbread or a bread of your choice.

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 celery stalks, chopped small

1 medium Spanish onion, chopped small

2 medium banana peppers, finely chopped

4 ounces red or amber ale

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound fresh shrimp, deveined and shelled (Maine harvested preferable)

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 ½ cups fresh corn (OK to substitute frozen)

4 cups of seasoned fish stock (OK to substitute vegetable stock)

1 large sweet potato, baked and mashed

Fresh dill, chopped fine, to taste

Step one: Heat 1 ounce of oil in a stockpot over medium heat, and add celery, onion and banana peppers. Cook until onions are clear (5 to 7 minutes). Add ale, salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring until beer’s foam subsides and liquid reduces (about 5 minutes).

Step two: Meanwhile, rinse shrimp under cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and toss in a bowl with paprika and chili powder, coating thoroughly. Heat the remaining 1 ounce of oil in a cast-iron pan. Cook shrimp for 2 minutes, stirring once, but ensuring a good sear.

Step three: Immediately transfer shrimp to stockpot with corn and fish stock. Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat, and add mashed sweet potatoes. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with fresh dill before serving.

Pale Ale Pineapple Brown Sugar Cupcakes

Yields 24 cupcakes

Sweet, but a little sour, pineapple is a fruit that brings so many flavors to any recipe it touches. These sweet treats get an added boost from a pale ale that’s made with hop varieties that present mango and other tropical fruit flavors. A gentle and floral pale ale also pairs very well with this three-bite dessert. This recipe comes from chef Erin Austin, who owns the Cupcake Brewery in North Carolina. Austin makes delicious baked treats, not beer, but regularly uses the state’s generous craft beer offerings to enhance her stellar recipes.


1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter

11/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 (15-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved

41/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup whole milk

1 (12-ounce) bottle pale ale


1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter

11/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons half-and-half, as needed

Candied pineapple (optional)

Note: The recipe will work best if all ingredients are at room temperature.

Step one: Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line muffin cups with paper liners.

Step two: Cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Slowly add 1/4 cup of the reserved pineapple juice.

Step three: Combine the cake flour and baking powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, using the electric mixer on low speed, until just combined. Add the milk, beating until just combined. Add another one-third of the flour mixture to the batter, beating until just combined. Add the pale ale. Add the remaining one-third of the dry mixture, beating until just combined. Fold in the crushed pineapple until evenly distributed.

Step four: Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 17 minutes, or until just lightly golden. Cool completely on wire racks, about 45 minutes.

Step five: Make the icing: Melt 1/2 cup of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Add the remaining 1/2 cup butter, and stir until slightly thickened, like a runny caramel, about 17 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, and let cool to room temperature.

Step six: Pour the confectioners’ sugar into a large mixing bowl. Slowly mix in the brown sugar mixture with an electric mixer until the frosting is light and fluffy. (If the icing is too stiff, slowly add the half-and-half, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s spreadable. If the icing is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until spreadable.)

Step seven: Pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes, and top each one with a small piece of candied pineapple, if using.

Excerpted from “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” copyright John Holl. Photography copyright Lara Ferroni. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

At Vail’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival, an event where everyone is focused on drinking beer, Ginger Johnson’s seminar took beer out of the glass and put it onto the list of ingredients for the next meal. Johnson is the founder of Women Enjoying Beer, a company that focuses on marketing beer to women. The company does research and conducts survey groups, then consults with breweries and other beer-related organizations about how best to reach out to women.

At this seminar, however, Johnson was focused entirely on food. Advertising, if there was any, was successful, as a line formed outside the room, with attendees hoping for an open spot. Both genders were represented in the audience as delicious smells filled the room and volunteers made their way around the tables, pouring beer.

Johnson, a slight woman with short dark hair and glasses, bustled through the chaos, a single atom of high energy bouncing from one task to the next. Each place setting had a place mat for taking notes, a pencil and various stickers and brochures for cheese, chocolate and Johnson’s company.

“I love food,” said Johnson, by way of introduction. She’s also a big fan of beer and even married a brewing professional. Like many obsessed with beer, Johnson is always looking for a chance to experiment and use it in unexpected ways. This led her to the kitchen.

“When I think of beer, I think of it as flavor,” she said, and that’s how she makes her recipe decisions.

Before starting the tasting, Johnson taught the audience members her two smelling techniques, to give them a sense of the beer she used in her recipes. The “drive-by” consists of slowly swiping the beer-filled glass under one’s nose to get a whiff.

“Don’t cheat!” Johnson admonished one overly eager audience member who had chanced a quick sip. She then asked those listening what they smelled.

Next came the “bloodhound” — putting one’s nose partially into the glass and taking in a big sniff. This produced many more scent and flavor observations. Now sips were allowed, with Johnson encouraging everyone to swish the beer all over their mouths, to let it touch each of the sensory receptors on the tongue, palette and roof of the mouth.

The first dish was a cup of roasted pork and beans, paired with Collage, the first in the Conflux series of collaboration beers between Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. (both in Oregon). For the recipe, Johnson soaked the pork and beans in the Collage, letting the flavor of the beer seep into the dry ingredients. With “big” beers like Collage (11.6 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV), Johnson said, the flavor sticks around long after the alcohol is cooked away.

For beers with a more bitter profile, Johnson suggested using them as an ingredient in salad dressing.

“Cooking doesn’t need to mean applying heat. Cooking can be preparation,” she said, much like soaking the beans — or “beer-inating” your ingredients.

When dealing with beers high in ABV, Johnson said the cook should consider whether the beer is the right flavor match for the dish and whether to keep the warming factor of the alcohol in play. And if you’re not sure? Try it and see what happens, she urged.

“I’m a very experimental cook,” she said. She’s not afraid to go off-book and, in fact, enjoys it. “In the end, experiment. That’s the fun.”

The second dish featured The Sixth Glass, a quadruple, part of the Smokestack series by Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Co. Johnson used it to make hummus with red pepper, fresh cilantro, lemon and olive oil. As with the beans and pork in the first dish, Johnson soaked the dried hummus mix in the beer, melding the flavors together.

‘Do you taste the beer?’

During the tasting, Johnson encouraged questions and kept the audience thinking with questions of her own.

“Do you taste the beer?” she asked. “Does the beer make the hummus more spicy or mild?”

For the third dish, a dessert, Johnson soaked ladyfingers in Fluxus, a dark beer that’s brewed annually as part of the Tribute series by Allagash Brewing Co. in Maine. Fluxus changes annually, and the 2013 version features blood oranges with coffee and chocolate malts. Johnson then smothered the ladyfingers in vanilla ice cream and added a single piece of candied ginger (which she called “divisive” for its pungent flavor) to the top.

Rounding out the session, Johnson encouraged her audience to keep an open mind when it comes to beer types.

“You are not to be a beer racist,” she admonished. “Color is only color. If you say you don’t like dark or light beers, you’re cutting yourself off.”

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