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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Lori Rice Takes Craft Beer to a Whole New Level

Nov 27, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Hops to Table

December 2017
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos courtesy of Lori Rice

Before Lori Rice and her husband moved to Visalia nearly three years ago, they had already lived in the Bay Area, Kentucky, even Brazil – and that’s not counting their travels throughout Europe and in other countries. Sometimes it was business, other times pleasure, but needless to say, the couple enjoys traveling. Oh, and beer, too.

“Together we’ve visited over 100 breweries across the country,” says Rice, who says their move to California introduced them to even more craft beers and breweries.

“Moving to California? Definitely,” Rice says, “but my passion and interest in beer started when my husband and I traveled to Austria, right after we got married in 2006ish.”

For some people, putting their passion into words can be difficult, but Rice literally wrote the book on hers. Last summer she started writing “Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer,” which was published earlier this year, though the idea for the book “had been on the back burner for more than two years before the opportunity came about.” 

“It’s a celebration of all the rapid growth and change in the craft beer industry, and marrying that with food in a way that wine and spirits have done for a very long time,” explains Rice. 

No, not pairing beer with food to enhance the flavor of each, she explains, but “all the recipes do have beer in them. There are a lot of chemical things going on with hops and bitterness that can be played around with to bring out the quality of the food.”

For those familiar with the gravitational pull beer can have on the belly, it might come as a surprise that Rice attended the University of Kentucky, where she studied nutritional sciences and wellness in sports nutrition, though her studies later would evolve “into more of a fascination with cultural foods.”

“Yeah, but hey, if you want to get into the benefits of beer, we can talk about that too,” she laughs. Anyway, the book isn’t just about indulging in brew, but also about exploring craft beer culture.

“I took the approach with the book to use it as a way to explore your craft breweries and to find out what they have on tap and what you can get in growlers or bottles, and how to bring that to your food,” says Rice. “It’s more about exploration.”

And the Central Valley affords plenty of craft culture to explore, with breweries like BarrelHouse Brewing Co., Tioga Sequoia, Brewbakers and Three Rivers Brewing Co. 

Rice’s new favorite is Full Circle in Fresno. “They’re producing really great, juicy style IPAs,” she says.  “BarrelHouse Stout is good for a lot of the stout recipes I have.”

As for beers used in the book, says Rice, “I include multiple styles of beers – saisons, chile beers, lambics, some stout and porter, but the goal was to expand on those staples. I also use brown ale several times in the book.”

With 60 recipes in the book that cover brunch, starters, meals, sides and desserts, there are plenty beers to explore and discover, but Rice makes sure to establish a foundation for those readers who are new to cooking with – or even drinking – beer.

“The starting point is a description of different types of beers that are used in the book, and what flavors in those beers help complement foods,” she says. 

As for the recipes, Rice, who is also a food blogger, writer and photographer, came up with them herself, adapting some from what she calls her staple recipes.

“For example, I make scones all the time, so I turned my go-to recipe for scones into a recipe for peanut butter stout chocolate scones.”

One of her favorite recipes in the book is a pumpkin ale cheddar and white bean dip, or the holiday ale cutout cookies, which she admits “is a little labor intensive but totally worth it. Just reduce a 12-ounce holiday type beer into a one ½-ounce reduction, then put it into the cookie dough.”

Other crowd favorite recipes include the baked brown ale potato cheddar enchiladas and the slow-cooked, five-spice stout shredded chicken. 

One of the best perks of the book is that most recipes’ prep time is shorter than it would take you to finish a beer. Which raises maybe the only problem with “Food on Tap”: the temptation to indulge in the main ingredient, and drink all the beer. •

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