WHETHER it’s a cup of red in a gravy or a splash of white to add taste to a chicken stew, there are no eyebrows raised to the cook who ventures to add some wine to the mix.
Beer, however, is a different story.
Up at Murray’s Brewery Restaurant, dark beers are just another ingredient.
‘‘It’s nothing new,’’ said head brewer Shawn Sherlock. ‘‘There are whole cuisines based around cooking with beer, like the Belgium-style cooking. Cuisine de la biere.’’
And it’s true. Travel around northern Europe for a while and you’ll find it all over the place. Beer in food is just part of everyday life.
Sherlock thinks it has been lost over time by modern Australian, British and, to a degree, American cultures.
‘‘Dark beer works particularly well because of the range of flavours it provides,’’ he said.
‘‘There are dark chocolate and coffee characters and burnt, roast characters. Because it’s higher in alcohol, it has warming characters like wine, which is also great in food.’’
He says the restaurant has been a huge success.
‘‘People seem to view beer foods, initially, as a novelty. They can be sceptical but once they taste it, most come to realise it’s just a great ingredient.’’
A day on location at the Bob’s Farm business answers a lot of questions about brewing, and a taste of the soon-to-be-released Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep dark beer is an excellent start to the day.
The label boasts that the beer is Australia’s first ‘‘Smoked Belgio Imperial Mussel and Oyster Stout’’, and that wouldn’t be a surprise.
Chilled, you wouldn’t know it is filled with shellfish, but let the chill wear off, and you’ve got yourself a beer that tastes like the ocean.
Murray’s tried and true Wild Thing Imperial Stout has a hefty 10per cent alcohol content, making it almost a meal in itself, but mixed into a curry, it adds a whole new dimension.
Adam Ritchie, the restaurant’s head chef, has been with Murray’s Brewery for five years and says every moment has been a learning experience.
Before he started at Murray’s, he knew a lot about guzzling bad beer, but nothing about good beer, he says.
One of the best parts of the job is the freedom he has to experiment with different cooking styles and recipes. ‘‘The freedom to create has been fantastic,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d always cooked with wine, but I’d never even heard about cooking with beer so it was a good learning curve for me.
‘‘Sean’s one of the best brewers in the country and he has a reputation for having one of the best palates. So learning from him about different flavours has been awesome.
‘‘It gives a real depth of flavour and it’s something you can’t really explain. It brings a totally different flavour than just cooking with water or stock.’’
Ritchie says you can replace pretty much any liquid you would usually use in cooking with beer.
‘‘I’ve done it with sticky date pudding, curries, braises, oso bucco – anything, really. Just not too much.
‘‘There are a lot more possibilities with beers and dark beers, rather than wine. They add such a complexity of flavour.’’
Ritchie kindly provided a few recipes for readers to try at home: