There is a fine line between beer adding depth and flavor to a dish and it being bitter.
For this reason, Kyle Bailey, chef at Birch & Barley in Washington D.C., rarely cooks with the 555 beers available. In fact, when coming on board he specified that despite the artisanal beer focus he wouldn’t be cooking with beer.
“Beer is already cooked,” he explains. “Because of the bittering hop aromas, the off flavors come to the front. The only thing I make [with beer] is a beer mustard. It works because we cook it low and slow on a double boiler for over six hours. The bitterness comes out and is paired with the vinegar and mustard flavors.”
He notes that unlike with wine, “where you basically have red and white,” every beer is so different, especially with the boom in the craft brew scene. “They are just so different, every brewer is a chef and they make something great, natural and tasty.”
Bailey does enjoy cooking with the ingredients that make up beer. In fact, he’s waiting for farm delivery of hops this summer to use in his cooking. “The brewers really use cool grains,” he explains. “I’ll use these ingredients to make sauces and in other unique ways.” They’ll then be featured on the menu paired with a specific beer.
“I’d rather educate people on drinking beer with food, than cook with it.”