Learning Center Class Re-Cap: Cooking with Allagash Beer!

The Learning Center was packed with hungry beer lovers as Matt Welch, New England Sales Manager from Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine and Learning Center Chef-Instructor Nina Lesser-Goldsmith partnered to show how really good beer can be more than an accompaniment to a great meal… it can actually MAKE the meal.  Matt brought four different beers that Nina incorporated in four different dishes. While Nina cooked the delicious food, Matt gave a synopsis of each beer; the inspiration behind the beer, how it’s made and its taste profile. Then we tasted each beer along with its dish.

The amazing dishes we learned how to cook (and eat!) in Learning Center class: Cooking with Allagash Beer

First, we learned about Allagash Brewing Company, one of the only Belgian style brewhouses in the United States. Nestled on the outskirts of Portland, Maine founder Rob Tod started Allagash after noticing a void in the craft brewing industry. While both German and British styles had become prevalent throughout the US, the ever-creative Belgian-styles were very difficult to find.  Rob sold his first batch of beer in the summer of 1995. Today, Allagash has six year round beers in its portfolio, seven yearly releases and numerous one-offs and keg only releases.

Allagash’s most popular beer, the Allagash White is their interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer. Brewed with a generous amount of wheat, spiced with coriander and orange peel, this beer is fruity and refreshing. Nina used the White in a Mussel dish that was out of this world. She steamed the mussels in some butter, vegetables and the White and served it up with some crusty bread. What a great dish to start off this amazing night of eating…and drinking!

Next, Matt talked about the Allagash Tripel. This strong golden ale is marked by passion fruit and herbal notes in the aroma, with suggestions of banana and honey in the complex palate. The Tripel has a remarkably long and smooth finish making it the perfect addition to a creamy Cheddar Ale Soup. Served with a crunchy rye bread crouton, this soup was hands-down the most comforting, creamy soup I’ve ever tasted.

The Allagash Curieux is made by aging the Tripel Ale in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for eight weeks in cold cellars. The aged beer is then blended back with a portion of fresh Tripel. The resulting beer is soft with coconut and vanilla notes, with hints of bourbon, a delicious accompaniment to barbeque…in this case New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp. The succulent shrimp were covered in a rich BBQ style sauce that had notes of sweet and spice in every bite.

My favorite dish of the night was next. Matt explained the Allagash Dubbel, a deep red colored beer with a complex malty taste. The finish is dry with subtle hints of chocolate and nuts. This beer is hearty enough to stand up to the long cooking time it takes to have tender, falling-off-the-bone short ribs…and that’s exactly what we had. The short ribs were amazing and the beer added richness to the sauce, served over creamy, soft polenta with a Horseradish cream…mouthwatering.

We ended on a sweet note…with cake! That’s right, Nina made cake with beer… the Allagash Black to be exact. The Belgian style stout brewed with barley, wheat, oats, both roasted and chocolate malt and a generous portion of dark caramelized candi sugar made the perfect addition to an already decadent chocolate cake.

I learned so much about cooking with beer and I can’t wait to try adding it to other dishes. Nina informed us that you can add beer to almost anything you are cooking just replace the liquid in the recipe with beer. Obviously this won’t work for all recipes and you have to be thoughtful about what beer you choose but I’ve been inspired to give it a go! Get cooking with beer!