You won't believe where we found the secret ingredient to these fabulous recipes.
Pop the Top on Flavor
Porter Float Pour creamy porter or stout beer over vanilla ice cream for an extraordinary adult float.
| Credit: William Dickey / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey / Food Styling Marian Cooper Cairns

Most folks define "cooking with beer" as enjoying a cold one while barbecuing or grilling. Truth is, beer is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. Its flavor flexibility adds richness to meats, helps create super-moist cakes, and makes a tasty substitute for chicken or beef broth. With Oktoberfest celebrations cropping up all over the region, now's the perfect time to add some fun to your menu.

Many tried-and-true Southern dishes only get better with this secret ingredient. So don't miss the Beer-Kissed Cheese Grits or hearty Pork-and-Greens Stew. The possibilities are endless, so let your imagination run wild.

Beer for Beginners
The rule for cooking with beer is the same one that applies to wine: Choose something you like to drink. There are, of course, a couple of things to remember to help the process along. First, the same style of beer (i.e. pilsner, ale, pale ale) from two different breweries may taste nothing alike. So give it a taste before adding it to a recipe.

Second, looks can be deceiving. Unlike wine, the color of a beer doesn't always confirm its body or flavor. In other words, light-colored beers (often thought to be more mild) may explode with flavorful hops, fruit, or even chile peppers. Darker beers, such as brown ale and bock, have a richer, deeper flavor while still being surprisingly refreshing and easy to drink. The exceptions are full-bodied stout and porter. These opaque gems are full of character and even taste great when served with dessert.

Our Favorite Southern Brews

  • Abita Brewing Company: These handcrafted beers are still made in small batches in Abita Springs, Louisiana.
  • Saint Arnold Brewing Company: This is Texas's oldest craft brewer. Their Oktoberfest beer is only available for a short time and shouldn't be missed.
  • Terrapin Beer Co.: We fell in love with Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout from this Athens, Georgia, brewer. A full-bodied beer, it hits the spot when the weather turns cool.

"Pop the Top on Flavor" is from the October 2007 issue of "Southern Living."