Beersgiving with Chef Taylor

By Taylor Smith, Drake’s Executive Chef
November 22, 2017

Cooking with beer is hard. Cooking with beer is even harder when you’re trying to break conventions as firm as what Thanksgiving dinner should be and how things need to taste. How do we go about sneaking in barley and hops to a party where they haven’t been invited for a couple hundred years?

Down here at the brewhouse in blue, we say there’s no better way to celebrate harvest season than enjoying an Ice Cold Brew (ICB), instead of a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). Why drink wine with your turkey and gib gravy? Why not get a great malty stout or a clean, crisp dry-hopped pale ale that can grab ahold of tart cranberry sauce and cleanse your pallet with a wonderful sweet and dry finish, readying you for the next bite of sweet potatoes mashed up into your greenbean casserole? That’s a thing right? Everybody does that? Not just me…?

But, why stop there? Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this, then you are more inclined to bring a good cellared bottle of barrel-aged beer to the party than a fine Napa Cab. You, me, and everyone else who prefers hops to grapes is drinking great beer this holiday. Thing is, I’m not a brewer. I’m a chef. It’s my job to honor the brewing tradition with food that pairs and USES the best beer out there.  

Let us explore a few ways you can turn your Norman Rockwell cardigan wearing Thanksgiving into more of a rock and roll, blue jeans and brewery hoodie holiday (beards are optional). Let’s talk about The Big Four:

1. Turkey

I always brine poultry. If it’s a bird that is cooked well done (over 160 degrees), it gets brined. Always. 

Turkey and 1500. A match made in food heaven.

A simple solution of water, salt, sugar and aromatics takes a potentially dry and boring bird to level of sublime texture and taste. So here’s what you do; get a 5 gallon bucket, get yourself a recipe for brine–without getting too sciencey on you, a basic brine is about 6% salinity, or a tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. Substitute 1 bottle of 1500 Pale Ale, or another of your favorite Drake’s hoppy/low IBU beers, for 12oz of water in every gallon of brine. You will need about 3 gallons of brine for a 15-19 pound bird (give or take). Use plenty of fresh rosemary and thyme. Those two herbs go with hops like Taylor Swift goes with break up songs. Brine your bird overnight (24 hours) and bake as normal. BOOM! Tender, juicy, fully flavored, crispy-skinned glory reminding us all why Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as our National Mascot.



2. Ham

Ham and beer <sigh> Where to begin.

There is nothing in the world that can compare to a juicy, sweet ham, glazed in a malty, roasted, slightly sweet, slightly bitter glaze, based on a great Porter or Stout. Pretty simple here friends, you’re going to make a brown sugar or maple syrup glaze to bake that ham.

All one must do is substitute Black Robusto or Drakonic for water, add some pineapple juice and cook it gently to reduce the volume without boiling (boiling is going to bring out the bitter). Smear that gooey mess all over your honey baked and roast it like your gramma taught you. You take a bite, your vision goes blurry, you hear heralds sing, flapper girls suddenly appear and dance the CanCan, champagne falls from the heavens… You can’t wait for the leftover sandwiches for the weeks to come.

3. Veggies

Ok, ok. How about vegetables, Chef? Well, let’s steer clear of the collards and green beans and brussels sprouts for now. Beer and green veg just don’t get along, and let’s face it, green veggies are great on their own. You remember that previous paragraph? The one up there? The one about hamTry it on sweet potatoes. Get yourself a smoky stout, make some glaze and gently coat your yams in it. Add plenty of herbs here too, poultry seasoning is a good mix for Garnet yams.

I get it, you grew up eating yams baked in pineapple juice and marshmallow, topped with those terrible neon red “cherries” (those are artificially colored you know). Well, dear friends, it’s time to move on. Yams and sweet potatoes are wonderful things. Instead of making a sickeningly cloying pseudo dessert, branch out and try a savory approach instead. Herbs and garlic, with the sweet/bitter juxtaposition of the beer is just plain life affirming. If you want to get really wild, melt some good cave-aged cheddar over the top of that, trust me, its like the apple pie thing.

4. Dessert

We’ve saved the best (and easiest) for last. 

Our respective matronage have been sneaking booze into our holiday sweets forever, or in the case of my grandmother, just flat out making edible booze treats and feeding them to minors. Because, holidays.

Bourbon pecan pie? Bollocks and malarkey! Get yourself a Barrel-Aged Drakonic instead. Cobbler? Get you some tart Bright Side Berlinerweisse for that compote.  

Lastly, lets talk about beer and eggnog. Just kidding, don’t put beer in eggnog. Some things are sacred.  

Chef Taylor A. Smith is the mastermind behind the Drake’s Dealership food program. He’ll proudly tell you how a publication once called his food “better than it needs to be.” Happy Holidays to you and yours from all of us in the Drake’s Brewing Family. We wish you fortune and good beers to come!