Hop to success with beer on your menu

October 31 2014

Chefs looking to liven up their menus may want to hop on the trend of dishes incorporating beer in unusual ways.

Using beer in batters for items such as fish and onion rings is a common practice, but more and more restaurants are finding ways to add its flavours to other things.

Gourmet burger chain The Works recently announced a beer-based menu, with a beer-battered beef burger being one of the stars. Another burger includes onions braised in beverage, while a third dish incorporates pulled pork with a root beer barbecue glaze.

This new trend doesn’t end there. According to a report from Technomic, sauces with a beer component could offer opportunities for restaurants looking to add interest to not just burgers, but also pork, beef and chicken dishes in general. 

"With craft beer sales booming, operators might consider incorporating popular or local craft brews into entrées, appetizers and desserts," said Patrick Noone of the food research company. 

In addition, other alcoholic drinks are being increasingly used in food items rather than simply being paired with them as an accompaniment.

Mr Noone highlighted examples from eateries such as Casey’s Bar and Grill and Wild Rice. The former incorporates Jack Daniel’s whiskey into one of its sauces, while the latter offers a dish called Kangaroo Steam Buns, which include beer-braised kangaroo meat.

Other ways to use alcohol in menu items include soaking dried fruit in stout such as Guinness before using it in sweet dishes such as cakes, making ale a feature of cheese-based soups and adding dark ales to meaty stews, as well as adding beer to bread dough.

Chefs may also consider combining vodka with pasta (penne a la vodka) and incorporating tequila into desserts - think tequila-infused frosting for decadent cakes - for Mexican-themed menus. 

Ideas like these may go a long way toward adding variety to menus and offering customers more reasons to return to the same restaurants. Experimenting with different combinations will likely yield the most popular flavours to focus on.