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This week we feature a guest blog from Pete Pagano, owner of Tir Na Nog in Raleigh.

There is nothing like sitting back and enjoying your favorite beer.  But why not take that beer a step further and add it to your favorite dish?  Using beer in soups, stews, meats, seafood, poultry and even desserts, is a great way to give a dish a whole new dimension.  With the explosion of the craft beer market we have never had so many delicious ingredients at our disposal.  Why make a regular cheesecake when you can make a Deadeye Jack Chocolate Cheesecake?  Or how about a Sweet Josie Brown braised short rib and bacon chili?

So if you have never cooked with beer, where do you begin?  For starters, don’t be afraid to experiment.  Sure, there are some flavor combinations that are more traditional than others but you never know what combinations you might discover that you like.  For example, instead of using a chicken or beef broth in a soup, why not use a reduced full body Scottish ale?  With many recipes out there you can generally use a 1 to 1 ratio when substituting beer for another liquid.

During the cooking process, much of the alcohol and bitterness the beer may have will burn off leaving the flavor agents intact.  Boiling the beer for a long period of time will maintain the flavor but will cause the beer to lose its delicate aroma.  When making a stew, add a porter or stout early in the process so you can develop the deep rich malty goodness of the beer.  But if you want to savor that beer aroma, try adding a few splashes of the beer after reducing the heat.

Finally, taste as you go.  As with any liquid, the more you reduce it the more intense the flavor will become.  Also don’t forget to record what you are doing.  It would be a shame to create a masterpiece but not be able to reproduce it!