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Irish Eyes Are Smiling When Cooking With Beer

A secret ingredient to make your St Patrick's Day dinner more grand is cooking with Irish beer. What's your favorite beer?

Ask an Irishman what makes his Irish eyes smile and he’ll likely say it’s the brew in his glass.

“I love checking out all the Irish beers this time of year,” said St. Louis County resident Mark Cobb who spent time this weekend comparing the Irish beer selections featured at Fenton’s Friar Tuck.  “My favorites are the Irish red ales. They have a nice malty flavor that tastes great with a plate of corned beef.”

Irish red ales and Ireland’s renowned dry, dark stouts will be the featured drink on countless St Patrick’s Day tables. Each brew processes rich flavors worthy of consideration as an ingredient in everything from soup to a nut-laced chocolate cake. Brewmiesers and chefs agree, almost any recipe that calls for liquid could be replaced with beer.

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When cooking with beer there are two rules to remember. First, don’t be afraid to experiment. Second, don’t cook with any beer you don’t like drinking. If you don’t like how a beer tastes in a glass you probably won’t like it in your recipe.

I recommend novice beer cooks to begin slowly, using simple recipes first and experimenting slowly by adding beer to gravies, sauces and marinades. To make the flavors meld well in your recipes remember this: always reduce the beer down to help magnify the beer's flavor notes.

To decide which Irish beer to cook with will depend on the flavors you want. Stouts like Guinness and Murphy’s are dark full-flavored brews with coffee notes that complement chocolate while red ales like Smithwick’s have a mellow caramel flavor that is perfect for corned beef. Light, crisp Irish lagers like Harp possess yeasty and citrus flavor notes that are great additions to bread recipes and sauces. 

To help decide which beer to buy check out the weekly beer tastings offered weekly at area liquor stores, such as Friar Tuck. Tastings usually are free for those old enough to indulge and provide beer reps on hand to answer questions on beer styles, flavors and pairing options.

St Patrick’s Day is a prefect time to taste, cook and experiment with Irish beers. It's also fun to pair your beers with food. When cooking with beer it's a win-win; simply serve the dishes with the beer added to the recipe. It’s an easy, savvy strategy that doesn’t require the luck of the Irish to pull off.

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