Forget Brats, Cookbook Helps You Pair Beer with Your Veggies

Mar 14, 2014

Writer Lucy Saunders' new cookbook helps keep veggies in the mix when it comes to beer-food pairings.
Credit Lucy Saunders

The beer-and-brat pairing is practically a Wisconsin staple, but Milwaukee-based beer writer Lucy Saunders is hoping her new cookbook will introduce some new options to complement your brew.

Beer writer Lucy Saunders' fifth cookbook
Credit Lucy Saunders

In Dinner in the Beer Garden, Saunders plays on the word "garden" in featuring recipes from beer gardens around the world with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

"I felt there wasn't a book on the  market that addressed pairing beer with fruits and vegetables at the center of the plate," she says.

Saunders, who teaches at the Siebel Institute Brewing Studies Program at Kendall College, says readers might be surprised to learn how well beer goes with vegetables.

"Mineral flavors in some vegetables can be a little tricky for wine, and beer with its malt sweetness and the kind of yeasty effervescence that it gets through fermentation can handle all of those flavors really, really well," she says.

Not strictly a vegetarian cookbook, it goes beyond carrots and kale to also feature fish recipes, as well as those with cheese, dairy and even chocolate.

The key, Saunders says, is having a bridge ingredient - creating a flavor in a dish that is highlighted in the beer style. She recommends having an assortment of toppings for dishes to create those bridges. Readers can also try to recall taste memories as they are trying a beer to tease out what food flavors might be good with it.

For example, in the book's recipe for a beer cheese soup, Saunders advises basing your beer choice on what flavors in the soup you want to emphasize. A red ale would highlight the flavors of an aged cheddar, but a smoked porter would pick up on chiles used at the base of the soup.

It's all about what tastes right to you, Saunders says.

"Every set of taste buds is different," she says. "Everybody's going to be more or less sensitive to certain flavors. You can see that particularly with an herb like cilantro - for some people, it's picante and a little minty, and for other people, it tastes just like soap."

While the cookbook features beer gardens and beers from around the world, it also features a few from closer to home, such as Milwaukee's own Estabrook Park beer garden.

The cookbook features Milwaukee's Sprecher Brewing Company's recipe for this decadent chocolate shortcake.
Credit Lucy Saunders

Local recipe contributors include Madison's Vintage Brewing Company with its beet gnocchi in a chèvre-weissbier sauce and Milwaukee's Sprecher Brewing Company with a recipe for chocolate shortcake with a burnt caramel cream paired with its award-winning black Bavarian beer. New Glarus Brewing Company's Black Top black IPA would go well with the recipe included below for udon noodles in a ginger garlic broth:

1 pound frozen udon

3 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons roasted garlic

2 tablespoons pickled ginger

3 tablespoons sliced green onions

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Pair with a Black IPA, like New Glarus' Black Top, or a hoppy American Stout


1. Place the fresh udon noodles in large pot and cover with vegetable broth. Place over medium heat.

2.  Stir in roasted garlic and picked ginger and bring to a simmer. Top with sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds, if desired.

Or try this recipe for Endives with Oranges, Pistachios, and Parmesan Cream:

6 white endives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 sweet oranges

2 tablespoons chopped toasted pistachios

½ cup Marscapone or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

½ cup Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons minced chives

½ teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoon white vinegar

Pair with: Dry American porter


1. Preheat the grill or barbeque to medium heat. Wash and trim the endives and remove any bruised outer leaves. Slice endives in half lengthwise if small, or, if very large, slice lengthwise into fourths.

2. Brush them lightly with oil on all sides and sprinkle with sale and pepper. Grill endives over a medium fire, turning them a few times, until they are lightly golden and soft on all sides, about 10 minutes. Arrange endives on a serving platter, cutting off any tips that may have gotten too charred. Arrange oranges on top. Sprinkle with toasted pistachios.

3. Mix Marscarpone or sour cream or Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, chives, orange zest, white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled endive.

Saunders, who has also written Grilling with Beer and The Best of American Beer and Food, will talk about the book at a reading and tasting this Saturday at Orange Tree Imports in Madison and this Sunday afternoon at Books & Company in Oconomowoc.