Two guys cookin’ stuff with … Beer |

Two guys cookin’ stuff with … Beer

John HartJim Vardon (left) and John Bush (right) made this bread with beer. They are seen here July 24 in Vardon's Lake Wildwood home with Paul Perry (center) of Music in the Mountains.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

When John Bush and Jim Vardon decided to co-chair the Music in the Mountains benefit, Sierra Brewfest, this Saturday, they thought it would be interesting to experiment with beer as an ingredient in food, not just something to drink along with it. They checked recipe files, went on the net and discovered some interesting history, as well as some great recipes.

They found that beer actually started out as food some 4,000 years ago, when barley was one of the earliest cultivated grains. It’s almost impossible to make good bread from plain barley, so that probably made it the grain of choice for brewing. Flavoring herbs and hops were added to the mix around 900 A.D.

Microbreweries are nothing new; each household had one presided over by the woman of the house. Early monasteries in northern Europe brewed beer to keep their parishioners alive. In 1259, the first commercial brewery was established in Strasbourg, Germany, ensuring a steady supply of beer for the masons working on the new Gothic cathedral.

Bush and Vardon became interested in finding out how different microbrews influenced the flavor of the dishes they turned out. Sierra Brewfest Beer Bread had different flavors depending on the brew used. An apricot ale leant its sunny and light characteristics; a stout added darker tones; a loaf made with hefeweizen and substituting a cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of all-purpose gave the loaf entirely different characteristics.

As their research continued, the thought of a party menu featuring dishes made with beer became a goal – everything from hors d’oeuvres to dessert, using beer as an ingredient. Other objectives were ease of preparation and being able to do most of the cooking in advance.

Bach’s Beef Carbonnade is enhanced by being prepared the day before; Brewmaster’s Twice Marinated Beef must be started two days in advance. The only last-minute item on the menu was The Maestro’s Tempura.

What do they plan to do after Sierra Brewfest? Perhaps another party featuring a new batch of beer-infused recipes. Cheers!

Bach’s Beef Carbonnade

3 pounds lean beef stew meat

1 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour, seasoned with approximately 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper

6 slices smoky bacon and some of the reserved fat, or 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

21¼2 pounds onions, sliced thin

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 cups beef broth

2 cups dark beer

11¼2 tablespoons soy sauce

11¼2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

11¼2 tablespoons steak sauce

2 bay leaves

1¼2 teaspoon dry thyme

If using bacon, fry until crisp, remove bacon from pan, pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat, reserving the remainder.

While bacon is frying, dredge beef pieces in seasoned flour.

Brown beef in bacon fat in batches – add reserved fat as needed. Put browned beef in crock pot or in oven- proof casserole.

If using oil, skip the first step; proceed to brown floured meat in batches in oil.

Cook onions and garlic in fat or oil over medium low heat (lower heat produces a sweeter taste). Add to casserole.

Mix the next seven ingredients together and add to casserole, stir all gently together, cover casserole.

Alternate cooking methods:

Stove top at low simmer for approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes

325 degree oven for approximately 2 hours, crock pot on low for 6 – 8 hours

Serve with noodles, rice or potatoes.


Twice-marinated Beef

3 pounds sirloin-tip beef roast.

1 12-ounce bottle of beer

3 – 4 large garlic cloves, peeled, cut into match sticks

With sharp knife, make small slits approximately 2 inches apart in roast; insert a match stick of garlic in each.

• Place roast in sealable plastic bag, add beer, remove as much air as possible, tightly seal bag.

Place in a bowl and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours), turning roast once or twice.

Next day, remove meat from bag, dry with paper towel and rub with your favorite dry rub and roast in your preferred manner to 140 degrees internal temperature for rare – check with an instant-read thermometer. (Meat will absorb more marinade if rare to medium rare.)

Let roast cool


1¼2 cup salad oil

1¼4 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup prepared marinara sauce

1 cup dry red wine

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1¼2 teaspoon garlic powder

1¼2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in large, nonreactive casserole.

Slice beef for sandwiches (not too thick) and place in marinade.

Refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours), or serve warm with marinade.

Sierra Brewfest

Beer Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour*

1¼4 cup sugar

1¼2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 12-ounce bottle of beer, flat and at room temperature**

1¼4 cup melted butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in beer until well blended.

Pour batter into the loaf pan. Be sure to fill corners. Pour melted butter over batter.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until light golden brown.

Leave bread in pan and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

*Alternate – 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour.

**Different beers will produce different tastes in the finished bread.

The Maestro’s Tempura

1 12-ounce bottle amber beer at room temperature

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

3 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

11¼2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

Assorted veggies and fish

1¼4 -inch thick onion rings, diagonally sliced zucchini, small mushrooms, small broccoli flowers, bell pepper slices, shrimp, scallops, small chunks of firm fish (let your imagination guide you).

Oil for deep frying.

Combine beer and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. One by one, whisk in eggs. Stir in the flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne, and set aside until ready to use.

Heat oil in deep fryer or deep-sided pan (an electric fry pan works well) to 375 degrees. (Do not cover pan at any time; the oil could ignite.)

Have all veggies and fish at room temperature – dry as much as possible on paper towels or the batter will not cling.

Dip veggies or fish in batter using tongs or a long-handled fork (do the same variety in each batch for even cooking), shaking off excess batter; gently add food to hot oil.

Cook until golden brown, turning as necessary with tongs or long-handled fork.

Remove cooked food from hot oil and place on baking sheet lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt, place in a preheated 250-degree oven until all pieces are cooked.

Repeat until finished.

The Sierra Brewfest is 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door, and can be purchased at Odyssey Books and The Bookseller, Pleasant Valley Pharmacy in Penn Valley, Nevada City Postal Co., Aero Brewing Co. in Auburn, or by calling the box office at 265-6124 or (800) 218-2188, or going online at

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