Cooking with Beer

 Fried Pickles with Beer Batter

Fried Pickles with Beer Batter

Warmer days herald the season of crisp, cold beers—and that means for cooking too. But late-summer cooking with beer means more than simply beer-can chicken, especially if you examine the profile of the beer you want to cook with. So, before you start planning your menu, have a beer.

At Oakland’s Old Kan brewery (, chef Raiden Brenner breaks down a beer into basic characteristics: how malty, hoppy, and fizzy the brew is. Easy to overlook, the carbonation of a beer is an important trait, since it contributes tartness from the dissolved carbon dioxide in the form of carbonic acid. All of those traits help Brenner decide what type of dishes will benefit most from that particular beer.

“Beers with more malt character lend themselves to soups, braises, brines, and marinades,” says Brenner. “Hops, you gotta be careful with. The bitterness will only increase with reduction so steer away from braises and stews. Instead, lean into sweet for balance. Like a dry-hopped honey mustard.”

For this time of year, chef Brenner is all about the Àokèlán (the English trans-literation of the Chinese word for “Oakland”), an Asian-style rice lager made by Old Kan with local California malts and rice, very lightly hopped, and designed to be crisp and refreshing.

Brenner utilizes the high carbonation and clean flavor of the Àokèlán for his fried pickle batter, since the “bubbles keep the structure of the fry batter light, and the acidity helps balance out the fat flavor of deep frying.” — By Lou Bustamante