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Carla Jean Lauter

Carla Jean Lauter is a craft beer lover and investigator of all things beer. She started a craft beer website and blog in 2007, sharing her thoughts as she explored what was new in beer, as well as brewery visits, trips and "beer adventures." Moving to Portland in 2009, she found herself surrounded by the Maine beer community and has been exploring it ever since. In her blog, Carla profiles craft beer (and some mead and cider, too) being brewed in Maine, as well as looks into the people, places and stories behind the beer that makes the community so vibrant. Join Carla on her beer adventures and advice on where to get the best, newest, and most interesting fermented drinks around. Carla can be contacted at askthebeerbabe [at] or on twitter at @beerbabe. Subscribe: RSS Feed for The Beer Babe

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The Beer Babe with Carla Jean Lauter
Posted: September 3, 2013

The American Craft Beer Cookbook

Whether we like it or not, the days where we throw up our hands and say it is “just too hot to cook” are coming to a close. Summer is ending, and the season to start bringing cooking back into our homes is upon us.

If those recipes you’ve been making for months are beginning to bore you, or you are wishing the food you made came close to what you’ve been enjoying at some of your favorite beer gastropubs or brewery restaurants, do not despair. A new collection of recipes prepared by beer writer John Holl in The American Craft Beer Cookbook may be your answer. It contains recipes that appeal to the foodie and the craft beer lover, collected from breweries and brewpubs across the U.S. By seamlessly combining the complimentary worlds of beer and food with a tour of craft beer destinations, The American Craft Beer Cookbook is unlike any beer and food book I’ve come across.

Each of the over 150 recipes features several suggestions of beer pairing, and some recipes also call for beer to be used as an ingredient. The level of difficulty and preparation time for the recipes vary – and includes some mainstream ingredients (chicken, salmon, etc.) and others a little outside of the ordinary (there’s one from Barcade in NJ that calls for fresh hop shoots) that will depend on the availability of the ingredients to be attempted. When Holl reminds us to seek local beer and local ingredients, it comes across as a loving suggestion instead of a guilt trip.

The recipes don’t only include appetizers, entrées and sandwiches, but extend as far as brunch and dessert recipes as well. As the weather cools, I fully intend to try the Winter Warmer Pumpkin Pie recipe that includes a beer like Harpoon Winter Warmer – because clearly I’ve been making pumpkin pie incorrectly by leaving out the beer! The cookbook starts with a section entitled “Beer and Brunch” and nonchalantly embraces beer’s contribution to the first meal of the day. Pancakes are paired with coffee stouts, breakfast chicken enchiladas are marinated in beer and there’s even a recipe for a “Beer-mosa” which is a Mimosa made with beer instead of Champagne.

I was pleased to find several New England brewery recipes featured, including this one from Gritty McDuff’s:

Blackened Shrimp & Corn Chowder

Makes 8–10 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 medium banana peppers, finely chopped

1/2 cup red or amber ale

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, preferably Maine-harvested

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

11/2 cups fresh or frozen corn

4 cups fish broth

1 large sweet potato, baked and mashed

Fresh dill, finely chopped

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and banana peppers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ale and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking and stirring until the beer’s foam subsides and the liquid reduces by half, about 5 minutes.

2. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Toss the shrimp, chili powder, and paprika together in a bowl, coating thoroughly. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring once, until nicely seared, about 2 minutes.

3. Immediately transfer the shrimp to the soup pot, and then stir in the corn and broth. Bring the mixture to a light boil over medium-high heat and add the mashed sweet potato. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes longer.

4. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the fresh dill before serving.

Pair with an amber ale, like Gritty’s Red Claws Ale, to fortify yourself against the elements and whatever’s coming next.

Many of the recipes seem like they would be excellent by themselves, but could also be combined for a multi-course meal or for entertaining. Coming in at about 300 pages, this is not a skimpy cookbook or an amateur “beer and food” teaser. Nor is it a book with pictures of food and the occasional recipe – there is no fluff. Space that could have been taken up by photos of every dish are instead packed with more recipes. Holl takes us from recipe to recipe, like a grand culinary tour of craft beer and food in the U.S., from our backyards to thousands of miles away. The book includes information about all of the locations featured, and also highlights some prominent beer cities in a section entitled “Road Trips” in the end.

While I would love to someday visit all of the locations profiled, it is still at treat to be able to have a taste of them come through the recipes. Beer and food is still a world that is begging to be explored, and I’m happy to have a travel guide of sorts, even if I never leave my own kitchen.

Note: If you’d like to know more about the cookbook, or just discuss your favorite beer recipes or pairings, John Holl will be at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland on Wednesday, September 4th for a book signing beginning at 5pm.

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