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Have you heard that beer’s not just for swigging from a bottle anymore? Instead, more and more restaurants are offering dishes that include the hoppy ingredient.
"I have used beer in different dishes since I first saw my dad boil up some brats with a couple cans of Pabst back in the early ‘80s. It got me hooked," says Ross Bachhuber, the chef de cuisine at Café Centraal, 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Some of Bachhuber’s beer-infused specialties are Abbey Ale mussels made from Lakefront’s Abbey Ale, a Belgian Grimbergen-battered Friday fish fry, a burger made with ale-braised onions and a Benelux meatloaf featuring Grimbergen in both the loaf and the gravy.
"Beer is great for marinades which tenderize meats and add robust depth to the flavor. It works extremely well for caramelizing / glazing vegetables, adding unique flavor to sauces, stocks, gravies and vinaigrettes," says Bachhuber.
After helping to open Fat Abbey Biercafe, 134 E. Juneau Ave., Bachhuber moved on to Café Centraal. The Diablos Rojos Restaurant Group owns both restaurants / pubs.
"Café Centraal has become my baby and we’ll keep growing and learning together," he says.
Stonefly Brewery, 735 E. Center St., is a bar, restaurant and brewery in the Riverwest neighborhood and, not surprisingly, their menu features food made with beer, too. The Stonefly brown ale cheese sauce comes with the cheesy fries, and the tofu wingers -- a vegetarian’s answer to hot wings -- are slathered in a Stonefly stout BBQ sauce. Additionally, Stonefly’s fish fry features beer-battered fish, and the hot pretzels and the cheese and sausage plate include a side of ale mustard.
Hinterland Gastropub, 222 E. Erie St., has a menu that changes daily, and it usually features at least one entrée or dessert made with brew.
"All of our desserts made with our beer are very, very popular," says Hinterland’s Lindsey Weigel.
Weigel cites the Weitzen ice cream as a customer favorite, along with a duck dish that’s drizzled with a syrup made from Hinterland’s raspberry rye beer.
Rock Bottom Brewery, 740 N. Plankinton Ave., has a variety of oven-fired pizzas that feature a crust made with honey brown ale. Also, Rock Bottom offers a carrot cake made with a "whisper" of pale ale, a chocolate raspberry sundae with stout hot fudge, and a chocolate brulee also made with stout. Their fries and onion rings come with stout ketchup.
Cliff McDonald, owner of Brocach Irish Pub, 1850 N. Water St., says his chefs use Irish beer in their recipes, including in the batter of their all-you-can-eat fish fry that’s available seven nights a week.
"The fish fry is huge," says McDonald. "In part because of our amazing batter made with Harp lager."
The Brocach menu also features a cheese dip made with Harp, an Irish stew and Irish onion soup made with Guinness, cheese curds with Lakefront Pale Ale, and a bread pudding served with Guinness ice cream.
Bachhuber says beer is a versatile ingredient, but the flavor can be overpowering.
"You can use beer in almost anything, as long as you are careful to marry the natural bitterness of the beer with sweetness and acidity so as not to compromise the overall flavor of your ingredients," says Bachhuber, who worked as a chef at the Milwaukee Art Museum prior to joining the Diablos Rojos' team.
Bachhuber says he has a few beer-licious recipes that haven’t made it onto a menu. Yet.
"I have a recipe for grilled pork chops brined and marinated in trappist ale with Chimay glazed root vegetables that is making my mouth water right now," he says. "You'll probably see it as a special at Centraal."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.