Beer Me: Cooking with the Good Stuff

Do you ever cook with beer? Maybe you’re like me—I don’t usually venture beyond boiling bratwursts in rich golden ale. But a recent tasting and cooking class I took, sponsored by Goose Island Beer Company, so inspired me that I’ll never look at a 6-pack the same way again.

Goose Island produces a wide selection of beers. On their own, I liked all that I tasted (312 Urban Pale Ale, Sofie Belgian style farmhouse ale, Lolita Belgian style wild ale, Halia farmhouse ale and Bourbon County Coffee Stout). And I found Sofie to be particularly good, with its light, citrus notes and subtle effervescence—perfect for summer.

But I had a true epiphany when I tasted the dishes our class made, all using Goose Island’s brews. At the risk of making you salivate, here was the menu:

  • Beer Cheese Crostini with 312 Urban Wheat Ale
  • Grilled Romaine Salad with Goose Island Sofie Ale Beer Dressing
  • Grilled Chicken with Goose Island Bourbon County Stout BBQ Sauce see recipe below
  • Planked Chocolate Stout Cake with Beer Caramel Sauce

The topping for the crostini was made quickly in a food processor with flat ale, cheddar cheese, a little garlic, Worchester sauce, BBQ rub, salt and pepper. It was a ridiculously delicious spread for toasted baguette slices.

Beer and cheddar cheese? I get that. But beer in salad dressing? You bet! It was a Caesar-style dressing, made with anchovies, garlic, Dijon, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Then we added room-temp Sofie Ale--a bright beer that melded beautifully with the classic Caesar flavors. Drizzled over grilled romaine lettuce and chunks of crispy croutons, this dressing turned the salad into the kind of simple summer fare you could eat every day. Sipping a cold glass of the Sofie Ale alongside it was perfect.

The chicken was all about the rich BBQ sauce. We used Bourbon County Stout—a substantial dark beer that churned with gutsy flavor—along with blackstrap molasses, sweet onions, arbol chiles, tomato puree and cumin. You can imagine the tsunami of deliciousness that was created when it was poured over grilled chicken.

Note to self: Add dark beer to BBQ sauce, always.

Then there was dessert. And one of the evening’s biggest surprises for technique: planking—no, not this—the wood planks you put on a grill and cook on. We used planks to imbue über-chocolaty stout cake with smoky flavor from the grill. (The wooden planks were soaked first then placed on the grill with the baked cake, along with marshmallows and chocolate chips, on top of the wood. As soon as the planks began smoking, we turned down the heat from the grill, and let the marshmallows melt a bit. A couple minutes later, there was smoky, melt-y chocolate cake deliciousness before us.) The cake was made with Coffee Bourbon County Stout beer, cocoa powder, sour cream, lots of sugar and butter.

The smell of the cakes baking, in case you’re curious, was enough to make you pass out from olfactory delirium.

Somehow, we restrained ourselves from tackling the cake when it emerged from the oven and instead set about making the sauce, which would eventually be drizzled on top of the cake. Dessert turned out to be the richest dish on the menu. The deeply flavored stout in the cake and the sauce intensified the chocolate and caramel flavors. It was pure heaven.

After tasting how beer can transform every course into something unique and unforgettable, I’m a convert. I’ll now always save some of my good beer for cooking.

Chicken with Goose Island BBQ Sauce

8 chicken thighs, bone-in


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup black strap molasses
1(14.9-oz.) can of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 (15-oz.) can tomato puree
1 teaspoon ground arbol chile
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and saute the onion for 5 minutes or until translucent.

2. Add the molasses, beer, vinegar and tomato puree. Stir to combine.

3. Add spices and stir.

4. Allow sauce to simmer 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. When ready, the sauce should have a thick consistency.


1. Preheat grill to medium.

2. Remove chicken, pat dry. Lightly season with salt and black pepper on both sides. Make slits along each side of the bone to decrease cooking time.

3. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until internal temperature is about 160°F. Just before chicken is done, baste both sides with sauce. Pull chicken and let rest until temperature reaches 165°F. Additional sauce can be served on the side.

8 servings

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