Craft Beer for Dinner

23 Sep 2018

What’s better than a delicious meal with a cool craft beer to wash it down? How about if the dish also has the flavors from the craft beer and you get to drink the others from the six pack, or the rest from the growler. Now that sounds like a winner-winner craft beer chicken dinner for sure. 

With 318 craft breweries and counting in the Carolinas, the brewery movement is here to stay. All of the beers used in these recipes should be available at specialty and major beer retailers.

Recipes and Text by April Blake  »  Photos by Kim Byer

Blonde Chicken Thighs


1.5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 t salt

½ t pepper

½ t paprika

¼ t cumin

⅛ to ¼ t cayenne

¼ t garlic powder

¼ onion powder

½ can of a 16 oz. NoDa Cavu or other blonde craft beer


Mix the spices together in a gallon zip top bag. 
Add the beer and shake around until spices and beer are combined.
Drop in the chicken thighs and seal. Let the chicken marinate in the beer and spices for at least 4 hours and up to 24. (Plan ahead tip: Prepare the thighs in the beer mixture while making dinner the night before).
After the chicken has marinated, heat a grill to 300-350 degrees and grill the chicken for 10 minutes per side, or until the meat is no longer pink inside. 

Extra Special Beans


2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 bottle of Green Man ESB or other ESB (extra special bitter) craft beer

4 cups of cooked pinto beans, rinsed and drained (or two 15 oz. cans)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

1 lime, quartered

Fresh cilantro, minced for garnish


Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Once shimmering, add in the onions and jalapeno and cook until onions are translucent. Turn down heat if they start to brown. 
Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
Add the beer and spices, mix thoroughly to combine.
Add in the beans and stir well. Let the beans simmer until gently bubbling throughout, then turn the heat to medium low. 
Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. 
Squeeze lime wedges over the beans and garnish with minced cilantro.  

Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale Queso


10 ounces cheese (I used 5 oz. of Monterey jack and 5 oz. of sharp cheddar. Try pepper jack for a spicier hit.)

1/2 cup Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale

1/2 teaspoon sodium citrate* 

red pepper flakes, chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, scallions, and cilantro as garnish (optional)


Put the sodium citrate in the bottom of a saute pan. (I used a 7 cup pan and it gave me plenty of stirring room.)
Pour beer into a 1/2 cup measuring cup and let the foam settle. Gently pour it over the sodium citrate, then turn the heat on to medium.
Once the beer begins to simmer, add the cheese a handful at a time and begin to stir as it melts.
Keep adding cheese until it is all incorporated and melted, and turn the heat down to low.
Stir in any red pepper flakes as desired and remove from heat. Stir it again before decanting to a serving bowl or a small slow cooker to keep it warm and smooth.
You’ll need to keep stirring occasionally even if it stays on the stove on a warm eye or in a slow cooker, as that’s the nature of the cheese.
Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

* Find sodium citrate on Amazon or other online specialty grocery sites.

Lager Mac and Cheese


1 lb. pasta shape of, cooked and drained (elbows, shells, fusilli, wagon wheels, etc.)

8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

6 oz. asiago cheese, shredded

8 oz. fontina cheese. shredded

1 cup Benford Brewing Southern Tater ale (one 22 oz bottle) or Palmetto Brewing Amber ale

3 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. flour

2 cups whole or 2% milk

2 tsp. onion powder

1/2  tsp. dry mustard

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cups panko bread crumbs


Heat oven to 350 degrees, spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  You can also use individual ramekins.
Mix all cheese together in a large bowl, remove 3 cups and set aside for later.
In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then add flour and whisk until smooth. It will get bubbly but keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown. While still whisking add ¾ cup of beer, keep whisking then add milk slowly.
Add onion powder, nutmeg, dried mustard and cayenne, season with salt and black pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add cheese one hand full at a time. After all of the cheese has melted, pour into cooked pasta and toss to coat.
Pour half of the pasta mixture in the pan, top with 2 cups of the reserved cheese, then top with rest of pasta.  Top with remaining cheese.
In a small bowl add panko bread crumbs and the rest of the beer toss quickly and sprinkle on top of the pasta.
Bake 30 minutes uncovered or until panko crumbs are lightly browned and cheese is bubbly.

Highland Gaelic Ale Battered Zucchini


2 medium zucchini

½ cup flour, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup cold Highland Gaelic ale or Hi-Wire lager

Enough peanut oil to have about a ¼” of oil covering the bottom of the frying pan.


Cut the ends off of the zucchini, then cut it in half crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise, then cut each quarter into 3-4 fry size lengths, depending on thickness. 
Put ¼ cup of the flour into a sealable plastic container and add the zucchini sticks. Shake well until coated. Set aside on a separate plate, reserve the leftover flour.
Make the batter by combining the remaining ⅕ of flour, salt, baking powder and mixing thoroughly. Slowly pour in the beer while stirring with a fork. It should begin to look like Thousand Island dressing in color and consistency. Set aside.
Heat up the peanut oil in a frying pan, to medium high heat. Once it is shimmering, add about 5-6 zucchini sticks at a time to the batter and use the fork to turn and coat the sticks with batter. Let excess batter drip off into the batter container. Place those sticks into the hot oil. There should not be much spattering. 
Let them heat up for 30-60 seconds until golden brown and use long handled tongs to flip and fry on the other side for about 30 seconds or until golden brown. Remove with tongs to a waiting plate with a paper towel to soak additional oil. 
Continue this process until all of the sticks are fried. As the oil gets hotter, you’ll keep them in there for less time, so don’t walk off while you’re frying, or they’ll burn. 
Serve immediately with your preferred dipping sauce like ranch, sriracha mayonnaise, or barbecue sauce. 

Twisted Lemon Shandy Popsicles

Makes 6 in a normal ice pop mold


2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup warm water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cup cold water

1 lemon’s worth of zest, or less if you prefer a less tart taste

½ can of River Rat Twisted Lemon wheat beer or other fruited wheat beer of choice


Heat the ¼ cup water in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Remove and mix in sugar until it dissolves.
Add the cold water, lemon juice, and zest and mix well. Taste test and add more sugar or lemon to taste depending on your sweet/tart preferences. 
Add ½ of the can of lemon wheat beer to the lemonade mixture. 
Use a spouted measuring device or funnel to pour the liquid into the ice pop molds and insert popsicle sticks according to manufacturer’s directions.
Freeze for at least 8 hours before unmolding to serve.

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