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The Joy of Cooking with Craft Beer in New York’s Brew Central

Beers lined up

Central New York state brands itself as America’s Craft Brew Destination and that designation applies to its pints as well as its plates.

What some consider a culinary novelty, Brew Central producers and publicans call a key ingredient in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Some put a twist on pub food standards like quesadillas. Others spin dishes from livestock that feast on spent grain.

Brew Central proves that beer tastes good no matter where you put it. And in America’s Craft Brew Destination, cooking with ales just comes naturally … and, in many cases, locally.

Food on Tap

“We rotate 30-plus different styles on tap, each with varying degrees of flavors and complexity,” says Michele Bleichert, co-founder of Water Street Brewing Co. in Binghamton, New York. “Using beer in our everyday menu or specials is natural because we have it easily at our fingertips.

“It provides us with a unique ingredient to work with,” she says.

Their beers inspire the names and tastes of a few of Water Street’s go-tos, including Sucker Punched Roasted Beet Hummus made with Suckerpunch amber ale and Vengeful Cheddar Mushroom Soup made with Avenger pale ale.

“When developing new menu items, we like to add a WSBC twist,” Bleichert says. “This can be an old favorite with an unexpected ingredient to make it our own.”

Even Brew Central establishments that don’t produce craft beverages are happy to grab the ingredient from a neighbor. The Apple Barrel Cafe integrates Defyance Revolutionary Ale from nearby Green Wolf Brewing Co. into its cheddar ale soup, which is also made with local cheese.

Like Water Street, the Apple Barrel in Schoharie, New York, embraces brew as a pantry staple.

“Craft beer has the same complexities that wine does,” says Owner Jessica Loden Kirby. Craft beer is not a gimmick on the menu at her pub and eatery.

“For example, putting a little stout in a chocolate cake adds a wonderful, rich, almost molasses-like layer to the flavor profile,” Kirby says.

Pouring It On

Fire and Food BBQ in Binghamton shares that philosophy.

“There are so many flavor profiles that come from the different ways of brewing beer that you can achieve any taste you’re looking for as opposed to being limited to red and white wines,” Co-Owner Jeff Tiderencel says. “The variety is hands down so much larger and more expansive than that of wine.”

Fire and Food experimented with a number of styles before perfecting its beer cheese sauce, which they ladle on everything from nachos to burgers to their diners’ delight. Unlike the entrees, though, the exact beer they use is not for public consumption.

“It’s a secret,” Tiderencel says.

Brew works just as well as an accoutrement as it does a main ingredient at Project 29 Pub & Filling Station in Fulton County, New York. Their Drunken Irish Quesadillas get a kick from beer mustard while Pickled Beer Cabbage can only be made one way.

Project 29 Owner Grant Guttenberg was perhaps inspired by his surroundings – nearly two dozen taps filled exclusively with New York state beer.

“The ideas for these recipes just popped into my head,” he says. “Beer adds a different layer of flavor because of all the different spices in it.”

A Tasty Destination

Central New York is proudly dedicated to its local sources, from farms to fermenters. So, no matter how you prefer to consume your brew, the possibilities are endless in Brew Central, New York.

America’s Craft Brew Destination includes more than 100 breweries, hard cideries, distilleries, pubs and wineries. Learn more about the stories, traditions and tastes of Brew Central and plan your trip here.