Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

October 7, 2014 at 7:50am

Cooking with Harmon Brewing Co.

Jesse Holder of Harmon Brewing Co. discusses the joy of vanilla ice cream and Super Samurai Barleywine Ale at Harmon's Brewmaster Dinner Oct. 2. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Beer isn't just for drinking, folks.

Eating beer isn't a new or even modern concept. According to, beer production began nearly 8,000 years ago, and beer consumers of the very early days considered it a food staple. National Public Radio recently reported that ancient Egyptian and Sumerian physicians considered cooking with beer a healthy practice.

Good news for beer and food lovers of modern days, yes?

Beer is a well-established ingredient in a variety of succulent and mouth-watering dishes. The fall and winter seasons, with their bevy of rich and delicious foods, pair perfectly with beer as part of a recipe - and, of course, to pair with the food.

Tacoma-based Harmon Brewing Co.'s Jesse Holder, director of brewery operations, and head brewer Jeff Carlson have spent time in the kitchen tinkering with beer recipes. While most dishes are a hit, there may be a few that don't work out.

"While we drink plenty of beer, we are still only mad scientists in the kitchen, trying things that ninety percent of the time turn out great; there is still that off-dish that we had in a dream, that isn't quite up to our standards," says Holder. "It should be noted that we are in no way trained chefs."

However, trained chefs or not, these guys love to experiment and have a lot of fun talking about it. We had a little Q & A session with Holder and Carlson.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What kinds of foods best lend themselves to being prepared with beer as an ingredient? 

JEFF CARLSON: Any food can be prepared well with beer, depending on the style of the dish and beer. In most cases, beer pairs better than wine.  An example of this would be porters and stouts, some of Jesse's favorites, when cooking a chili. Any medium to full-bodied porter, such as our Puget Sound Porter, or stouts, such as our Stryker Stout, with plenty of chocolate and coffee notes, really help to add another level of flavor similar to a molé.  Another approach would be to mirror flavors found in both the dish and the beer, such as a malty amber with sweet barbeque.

JESSE HOLDER: Jeff likes to braise his ribs with our Expedition Amber or add a little in the sauce for pork chops; really, any meaty dishes work well with the amber. Honestly though, there is no single rule for pairing and cooking with beer, as with wine.  As in most cases, regarding trial and error, it can be hard, but once you create a hit, the rewards are fantastic.

VOLCANO: What style of beer is the best to work? 

CARLSON: Any beer can be used, but first you need to decide if you'll be complementing or contrasting the flavors in the beer or in the dish.  Malty beers for sweet foods is a great complementing element - sweet flavors versus sweet flavor - while hoppy beers complement sharp cheeses and spicy flavors - bold flavor versus bold flavor. 

VOLCANO: What are the most important tips for at-home cooks to know about using beer? 

HOLDER: In our experience, don't drink too much of the beer; you definitely want to save some for your dish and some for your guests.  Having to replace a vintage beer, with one that has less age or flavor, can really put a damper on the evening.

Beer is more complex than wine due to the vast variety and flavors currently on the market.  Stick to complementing flavors rather than contrasting the flavors when cooking with it.  Remember that when you cook with beer, the flavors become more intense and stronger.  The hops tend to concentrate quicker than malty sweetness - a brief simmering is essentially fool proof - but a reduction can change the flavors completely.  Use beer in brazing and sauces; don't just throw the beer in the recipe. And be careful to make sure the dish calls for it.

South Sound Seafood Skillet

18 oz. Harmon Mt. Takhoma Blonde

9 cloves garlic, crushed, divided

1 1/4 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 lb. of Penn Cove Mussels, remove beards and clean

1 lb. steamer clams rinsed and cleaned

6 large Dungeness crab claws

1 1/2 lbs. salted butter

1 lemon, sliced

Add your favorite hot pepper sauce and Old Bay seasoning to taste

4 sauce dishes

2 skillets

1-4 empty bellies

Place large skillet over hot grill. Add Mt. Takhoma Blonde, half of the garlic, the onions and bay leaves. Bring to simmer and add shellfish.

In a spare skillet, melt butter. Divide melted butters across three side dishes. Add remaining garlic to one of the dishes and stir.  Squeeze juice from 1/3 of the lemon wedges into second dish of melted butter and stir. Add hot sauce and Old Bay to remaining dish and stir.

Remove shellfish from skillet, saving one cup of Mt. Takhoma Blonde liquid, and place the shellfish on a serving plate.  Strain reserved blonde into fourth sauce dish.

Serve shellfish immediately with assorted sauces.


Words and Photos from Harmon's 2014 Brewmaster's Dinner

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About this blog

Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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