Oktoberfest: Lagers, Ales & Huevos Rancheros

Beer Tortillas

Let’s welcome October and the second week of Oktoberfest with a chat about lagers and ales. When I hear the word lager, a light golden beer usually comes to mind. Likewise, I think of an ale as an amber or brown beer. But that does not have to be the case. The true difference between the two styles of beer is the yeast used in the brewing process. Because the grain is not the issue, someone could very well brew a lager or ale of any color.

The yeast used in the lagers requires colder temperatures to ferment than does the yeast used in ales. Lagers also age longer than ales, so their taste is much less robust than that of an ale. So lagers require cold temperatures and more time which result in a milder taste. Ales require warmer temperatures and less time which results in a heftier taste.

I am an expert in exactly zero things, so my goal here is not to pretend I can school you in these beers. I do however hope you now know enough to get a trivia question on the subject right. To watch an actual brewer speak on the subject of ales and lagers, just click here. If you would like to watch a little cartoon about how beer is made, click here.

Beer Tortillas

Since there two beer types discussed in this post, I decided to double up on the beer usage in this huevos rancheros recipe as well. The eggs soaked in a beer solution for a week, and the beer tortillas came from The Beeroness. For all the loveliest beer-meets-food recipes you could ever hope to imagine, you need to check out that blog!

I soaked the eggs for a full week in a solution of white ale, apple cider vinegar, and spices. They were tart! You can always soak them for less time to impart a milder taste. And if you want to keep the eggs as white as possible, use white vinegar. The point to using a white ale is to keep the eggs light, but since I didn’t have white vinegar when I felt like mixing the soaking solution up, I used apple cider vinegar.

Beer Tortillas

I can’t say enough about how good the beer tortillas tasted! I attribute this to the mixture of reserved bacon fat I added to the shortening as well as the beer. Unlike the first time I made homemade tortillas, this time things went a lot better. I was able to roll the dough out thin enough and cook it just long enough so the tortillas remained pliable instead of crisping up.

That said, I still ended up with some very goofy looking tortillas; it took me about half a dozen before I really got the hang of the rolling-cutting-cooking. To keep the tortillas as round as possible, try not to handle the dough but to lift it from the counter and into the skillet. And remember, there is no need to worry if your tortillas are not perfectly round. The goal here isn’t to impress the President, just to get dinner on the table.

Beer Tortillas

As I was assembling the huevos rancheros, I had the wonderful luck of having two separate friends ask if they could stop by. I encouraged their visits, luring in unsuspecting taste testers. My first reaction was, “Hmm, these are sweet.” Both of my friends said the same thing! The cherry salsa I used lent an unexpected sweetness that really countered the tartness of the eggs.

By no means do you need to use a fruit-based salsa for this recipe. It’s simply something to keep in mind. I should also point out huevos rancheros are typically made with eggs cooked over easy or sunny side up. If that is your preference, you can still use the beer tortillas. Or if you are simply interested in the hard boiled eggs, the cookbook they came from suggested serving them with a slice of cheese and tomato. I myself plan to use the remaining eggs in salads or egg salad.

Beer Tortillas

If you are looking to make a complete Oktoberfest dinner, Saveur has an entire menu from soup to dessert available here. Whole Foods also has a number of cooking with beer recipes available at this blog post.

As a reminder, I am basing the beers used in this series off of my experiences at Charlotte’s World of Beer. Any errors, omissions or out-right butcherings of the information our knowledgeable and patient teacher provided and I have re-shared are most definitely my own. Happy October, and happy Oktoberfest!

Huevos Rancheros with Beer Eggs & Beer Tortillas
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Eggs
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 cups pale ale
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • For the Tortillas
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup fat (shortening, etc.)
  • ¾ cup beer, room temperature
  • For the Huevos Rancheros
  • Black Beans
  • Cumin
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Cilantro
Instructions
  1. To make the eggs, combine all ingredients except the eggs in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
  3. While the beer solution boils, place the peeled and hard-boiled eggs in a glass or plastic (not metal) container.
  4. Pour the hot liquid over the eggs until they are fully submerged.
  5. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate and allow to soak for three to seven days.
  6. To make the tortillas, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  7. Add the fat and use your hands to rub it into the flour until it is fully distributed and forms course crumbs.
  8. Slowly pour ¾ of a cup of beer into the flour mixture, mixing with a fork until all of the flour has been moistened. Add additional beer one tablespoon at a time if needed.
  9. Knead until the dough becomes shiny and slightly stiff, about 3-5 minutes. The dough should remain soft; do not overwork.
  10. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30-60 minutes.
  11. After resting, pull off pieces of the dough about the size of a golf ball.
  12. Form into balls, then roll out very thin on a lightly floured surface.
  13. One at a time, heat the tortillas in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about one minute per side. The tortillas should lightly brown, but do not overcook to a crisp.
  14. To assemble the huevos rancheros, mash two tablespoons of beans with a bit of their liquid (or broth) and a sprinkle of cumin.
  15. Spread over a tortilla, then top with cheese and a sliced beer egg.
  16. Place in the skillet, and when the cheese has melted, remove.
  17. Add more beans, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro as desired.
  18. Top with a second tortilla and enjoy.
Notes
For the eggs, I used Great Lakes' Holy Moses White Ale, and for the tortillas I used Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.
 

Dark Beers & Chocolate Porter Bread

Chocolate Stout Bread

As fall moves towards winter and the days get darker, so might your beer of choice. Enter stouts and porters.

Porters originated in the United Kingdom during the 1700s. They were made with a blending technique known as Three Threads. An old, stale ale forced to mingle with a brown ale and a pale ale resulted in a porter. A strong version of the porter was deemed the stout. Most stouts were destined for export to America or other far-flung destinations.

According to lore, the porter received its name because it was a popular drink among the porters working in Central London during the Industrial Revolution. That is well and grand, but what was it called before it became popular with them? Did it have a name at all, or did a porter just belly up to the bar and ask for a dark beer? I would really like to know.

Chocolate Stout Bread

Today stouts and porters are no longer the product of three different ales, but rather they are brewed using different varieties of malt to lend them flavor and sweetness. Flavor profiles can range from burnt coffee to chocolate, the latter of which makes for excellent use in baking. A milk stout is a variety that is a bit sweeter due to sugars like lactose that are added during the brewing process.

Another piece of beer trivia: dark beers were once popular drinks among athletes and nursing mothers. Why? Because they were calorie dense. I once heard someone say drinking a Guinness was like drinking a Snickers bar. But at approximately 125 calories, you could really drink two Guinnesses before it amounted to a candy bar. Check out this Beeramid infographic that lists out the calories found in many popular beers to see where your brew clocks in on the calories.

Chocolate Stout Bread

Picture this scenario. It’s Saturday night, and you are enjoying a lovely six-pack of dark beer with a few equally lovely friends. Come Sunday morning, there is one lone beer standing. Leaving it alone to suffer in the cold depths of the refrigerator seems almost cruel.

Put it out of its misery and use it to bake a lovely chocolate porter bread. Within 90 minutes, 80 of which are spent baking and cooling, you will have a lovely bread to enjoy for brunch. If you drank five beers the night before, you’re going to need bread anyway. It’s a win-win. Enjoy!

 

 

Oktoberfest Menu

4.5 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Porter Bread
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2¾ cups flour
  • ⅓ cup cocoa, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (12 ounce bottle) porter or stout (I used Founder's Porter)
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. Create a well within their center and pour in the wet ingredients.
  3. Stir until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack.*
Notes
* I find this to be the most important step in quick-bread recipes. Try to remove the loaf before it is cool enough, and it falls apart. Leave it in the pan until it is completely cool, and then it does not want to come out at all.

Leftovers keep well in the freezer.
 

Oktoberfest: Belgian Beers & Soup

Pretzel Bowls

Today we leave Germany behind and visit Belgium. As I recall, the process to brew both German-style and Belgian-style beers is similar, but the Germans are precise whereas the Belgians just sort of wing it. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time certainly knows I am on board with the Belgian’s style.

In a nutshell, Belgian beer history is steeped in the Catholic Church. For centuries, the Church allowed abbeys to brew beer to earn needed cash. People wanted beer because in those days a low-alcohol version was a substitute for impure drinking water. Today, a number of popular beers once brewed in abbeys continue to be made following those traditional methods.

Pretzel Bowls

What’s more, monks at seven monasteries continue to brew and sell beer to meet their living and maintenance expenses. Six of these seven Trappist breweries are found in Belgium: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. The remaining, La Trappe, is located just across the border in the Netherlands. An eighth Trappist brewery exists in Germany’s Mariawald, but they have not brewed beer since the 1950s.

It’s been noted Westvleteren brews the best beers in the world. But they are not available in the United States. And the monks only brew the beer when they need money. So I guess I will stick with the second best beer in the world: Bud Light.*

Pretzel Bowls

A fairly tiny country, Belgium boasts the largest number of breweries per capita than any other country. A few Belgian beer types you should try when you visit include:

Dubbels – Malty! Rich and dark as well.

Tripels – Strong! Also brewed with a lot of malt, but the addition of candy sugar lightens its color to a pretty golden hue. It is worth noting the strong refers to alcohol content, not to taste. A good Tripel should actually go down pretty smooth.

Saison – Fruity, but more dry than sweet. They were brewed in the winter for drinking in the summer.

Witbier – A light, spiced “white” beer brewed with wheat.

Labmics and Gueuzes – Delicious. To be discussed in further detail in an upcoming post.

Pretzel Bowls

Let’s talk about food. I picked a recipe for Belgian Beef Stew seen in Ted Allen’s In My Kitchen. At the time, I thought it was a good alternative to the knee-jerk Belgian waffles I considered. Pretzels were pretty obvious for Germany, so I thought I should go off the beaten path with this one. About half-way through, I was seriously reconsidering the waffles.

While I can appreciate the art of cooking that requires one to braise beef in the oven for over two hours, the way in which the recipe was written was overly complicated. It involved cooking meat multiple times and layering things in a Dutch oven to cook both on the stove and in the oven. I was so frustrated with trying to figure out just what should be going on that I recognized recipes like this are why people say they can’t cook.

We all can cook. Though a cookbook might call something Belgian Beef Stew, at the end of the process, it’s a soup. How can you possibly mess up soup? It might boil over, but it won’t burn. It might not taste quite right, but that’s nothing a little salt and pepper can’t fix. I’m fairly certain that unless you throw a handful of  dirt in the pot, you are not going to mess up soup.

Pretzel Bowls

So let’s do as the Belgians do and throw caution to the wind. The original recipe for Belgian Beef Stew calls, obviously, for beef. I just happened to have two cans of fully cooked beef from a local farm near my hometown (which is another story altogether), so I used that. Typically, I do not buy beef, so I do not even know how to suggest a cooking method for the beef  called for in this soup. But since we are all traveling along our own paths with the recipe as a guide in this one, I know you will figure it out.

I happened to throw in some carrots and celery. If you do not want to eat beef, throw in some beans. Vegetarians can omit the meet altogether and substitute vegetable for the beef stock. The important thing here is the focus on is the beer because that will affect the taste of the broth. I used New Belgium’s Abbey. For a lighter broth, you might opt for a golden ale. Serving suggestions include pouring the concoction over boiled potatoes, rice or noodles. I used some of my beer pretzel dough to bake the bowl you see here.

Incidentally, this year’s June/July issue of Saveur included a nice write-up of Belgian beer and breweries. There is also a Conde Nast Traveler article out there about one man’s quest to visit Belgian’s Trappist breweries. Cheers!

Pretzel Bowls

 

*I’m totally kidding.

 

 

Belgian Beef Stew
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 pound beef, fully cooked
  • 1 pound yellow onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups Belgian golden ale or Abbey ale
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup carrots (optional)
  • 2 stalks celery (optional)
Instructions
  1. Brown the bacon in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Once cooked, remove the bacon and allow it to drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Toss the onions into the now empty (except for the bacon grease) pot and cook until soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne and allspice (if using) and cook until fragrant, one to two minutes.
  5. Add the bacon and the (fully cooked) beef.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the beer with the beef stock, brown sugar and vinegar.
  7. Pour the mixture into the pot to cover the meat and onions.
  8. Bring to a simmer, then add carrots and celery if using.
  9. Allow to simmer for an hour or so.
  10. Discard the bay leaf before serving.