One of my readers had the brilliant suggestion to combine the best of both worlds and infuse the flavors of a favorite beer right into the ribs. It's genius. Yes, it's been done before, but I was on a mission to perfect a recipe. We're talking tender meat, savory sauce, and have it all accentuate the flavors of a chosen brew.
Soon after I started 'The Great Beer and Ribs Experiment', I realized that one recipe can't satisfy the cravings of all beer lovers, because beer, like wine, is a very personal thing. Beer changes with cooking chemistry, and the hops add a sweetness while the other flavorful components affect your outcome, too.
As the overachiever I tend to be, I've come up with not just one, but three beer-based ribs recipes with the help of some experts in the beer industry and professional chefs. too. (Thank you to Chef Mike Lees - the Giggling Gourment and co-owner of Flounder Brewing, beer blogger Daryl Meek, Flounder Brewing co-owner and sommelier Jeremy Lees, and Executive Chef Matthew Wayland. I couldn't have done it without all of you!) So you see, I had some pros on my team from the worlds of beer and food to ensure that these recipes are the best around.
These gentlemen provided the basis for what you see here, and I've modified the recipes to tone down the heat, turn up the flavor, and give them that extra oomph. There’s no way that one recipe can satisfy all beer lovers. Clearly there are 2 kinds of beer people: dark beer people, and those who like lighter beers. When you cook using either one, the flavors are completely different. Therefore, it follows that the ingredients of the sauces (and optional dark beer rib rub) should be different as well.
I used beef ribs when preparing the stout/lager/dark beer recipe. If you use pork ribs, you’re on your own. I figured: with a dark beer, use a dark meat; with a light beer, use a lighter meat. I used pork or baby back ribs with the amber/pale ale ribs recipe.
All of my recipes are kid-friendly and won't burn your lips off. Please, by all means, if you find that you like your ribs with some more kick, turn up the tobasco and add some habañeros to the sauces when cooking. The heat will not affect the basic outcome; it can only enhance it.
The one important thing I’ve learned during this experiment is that the recipe is almost as important as the cooking method.
You know your ribs are done when they are so tender they almost fall off the bone. This is why you need to pre-cook them inside, before grill time. There's just no getting away from it. No short-cuts here. You can stop at that point, or go for the grill afterwards.
Making the Sauces - a few important things:
When making the stout/lager ribs recipe, you make your sauce separate with leftover marinade, because when you slow cook your ribs in the oven at 250° for 2 ½ - 3 hours, the fat melts off of the ribs and cooks into that small portion of sauce you put in the baking dish. That makes for a very fatty and watery sauce – which is not the best. There are 2 options for sauce: chunky style, and smooth. If you choose to make your sauce smooth, after you cook it down the first time, let it cool, then put it in a blender to puree it. Then, heat it again before serving over your ribs (or basting the ribs with it on the bbq).
When you make the pale or amber ale recipe, the sauce is made on the stove. Again, reserve some sauce on the side so you can baste your ribs in it on the bbq, and spoon the sauce over them before serving, and the sauce won’t have the melted fats in it from the cooking process. The pale/amber ale ribs will have a slight ginger taste that gives them a kick.
And the most important thing of all: COOK WITH THE BEER YOU WILL BE DRINKING WHEN YOU SERVE YOUR RIBS!
Stout/Lager/Dark Beer Ribs Recipe:
This recipe will give a slightly sweet but tangy, yet spicy flavor to your ribs. Turn up the heat as you see fit with tobasco and habañeros.
1 cup good quality bbq sauce (I used Stubbs)
1 cup ketchup
1 (12 oz. botter of dark beer (lager, stout, etc.) )
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice of 1 whole lemon
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
5 drops tobasco sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
beef ribs (short ribs, or slabs) (enough to feed 4 people)
1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. In a large baking dish, place the ribs and cover them with the sauce - or - place the ribs in a ziploc bag and marinate them in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 3 hours.
3. When you are ready to cook the ribs in the baking dish, put the ribs in the dish and spoon about 1 cup of marinade over them. (If they are already in the baking dish, remove about a 3/4 cup of marinade.) Take the marinade you just put to the side, and put it in a saucepan on the stove.
4. Bake ribs at 250° for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, covered with foil, until the meat is pulling away from the bone.
5. Cook the marinade in a saucepan on the stove for about 20 minutes, while the ribs are in the oven, to kill any bacteria from the raw meat. If you bring the sauce to a boil, and then simmer on low heat for an additional 10 minutes, that should do it.
6. For a smooth sauce, let the sauce COMPLETELY cool, and place it in the blender, and blend it until it's really smooth. You will reheat the sauce later when the ribs are finished in the oven or on the grill.
7. When the ribs are done in the oven, do NOT use the sauce that the ribs cooked in. It's too fatty. See, when the ribs are cooking, the fat melts off into the sauce and makes the sauce too thin. This is why you saved the sauce on the side and have it in a sauce pan ready to go right now.
8. At this point, you have two choices: Serve the ribs and spoon the heated sauce from the stove top over them - or - if you want to grill the ribs after they come out of the oven, place the ribs on a plate and grill them for about 2 minutes per side, turning once so the meat doesn't fall off of the bones. Baste them with the sauce from the stove, and once you get them off the grill, spoon additional stove top sauce over them.
OPTIONAL dark beer rib rub: (for a smokier flavor)
Some people like a bit more depth to their beef ribs. This is where a rib rub comes into play. It takes a little more prep time, but worth trying it if you're looking for some subtle smoky flavor with Asian overtones. If you use the rib rub, do it a day before you marinate your ribs in the sauce above. My advice: only use this rub with the DARK beer rib recipe. The flavors compliment each other.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp fennel seed (or dried, crumbled fennel fronds)
2 star anise (broken up)
1/4 cup espresso powder
Combine all ingredients. Rub the spice mix on all sides of beef ribs. Wrap the coated ribs tightly in plastic wrap and let them stay in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Afterwards, start with the Stout/Lager/Dark Beer Ribs Recipe steps above.
Pale Ale/Amber/Lighter Beer Ribs Recipe:
Honestly, this was my favorite ribs recipe. It reminded my taste testers of a sweet and sour sauce with a smoky, tomato-based flavor. I immediately thought a pale ale with a honey base would be the perfect pairing. These ribs have got a lighter feel to them to match the beer used. That said, it depends on what you're in the mood for. If you want a more robust, beefier, and richer rib recipe, go for the stout/lager/dark one instead.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 inches fresh ginger, peeled, minced
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 of a 3 oz. can pineapple juice
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 bottle pale or amber ale (What do you do with the other 1/2 bottle of beer? Drink it while you cook, silly! :) )
pork ribs (baby back or slabs) (enough for 4 people)
1. Heat olive oil in saucepan with onion, garlic, and ginger.
2. As the veggies start to soften, add all of the DRY spices, but not the brown sugar.
3. Add the brown sugar and all other ingredients, when the veggies are completely softened and translucent.
4. Stir the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes until it comes to a boil. The total cook time should be 20 minutes. If it boils sooner, lower the heat and keep stirring and simmering.
5. Pour most of the sauce over the ribs, reserving approximately 1 cup.
6. Bake the ribs for 3 hours at 250°. Grill afterwards if desired, 2 minutes per side, flipping only once.
7. Heat the reserved sauce in a saucepan on the stove and pour it over the finished ribs before serving. Oh yum!