A great alcohol-free beer goes with loads of different meals. However, one of my favourite pairings is with a good burger. There’s a wonderful simplicity and taste perfection to a great beer and burger. It only seemed right that I’d give this another try. Taking my time to find why thought would be the perfect burger, I found the Beef & Blue Cheese Burgers from Skinny Kitchen Secrets. Seeing the recipe, I knew I had found something I had to try.
I’d chosen the burger, what about the alcohol-free beer? With the strong flavours promised in the blue cheeseburgers, I didn’t want anything to strong at risk of the flavours clashing. At the same time, it couldn’t be bland and water down a flavour packed meal. After surveying the many options chilling in my fridge, I settled on the Fortitude Fresco Pale Ale.
The question now was whether this alcohol-free beer and burger would be the pairing perfection I was hoping for?
Recipe: Beef & Blue Cheese Burgers
It’s been a while since my last attempt at an alcohol-free beer & burger so I thought it was time to give it another shot, but this couldn’t be any old burger. I wanted to find a burger that packed as much punch with flavour as a good quality alcohol-free beer.
After looking at a number of different burger recipes, I stumbled across the Beef & Blue Cheese Burgers from Skinny Kitchen Secrets. I was drawn to the idea of blue cheese in a burger as these were the types of strong flavours I was searching for. Then looking through ingredients and seeing more fantastic ingredients like Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce, I knew this was the one.
Another little bonus that caught my eye was the homemade caramelised red onion chutney and mustardy mayo as accompaniments. It’s too boring to just squirt tomato ketchup on a burger. These homemade condiments should give it an extra special edge.
Preparation: Blue Cheese Trick Helps
Making these burgers was an absolute breeze. The secret was preparing everything in advance. Then it a simple case of throwing everything in the bowl and mixing it together.
The recipe suggested having beaten egg ready to mix in slowly until you reach a pliable consistency, but I didn’t need this in the end. I’m going to put this down to the soft blue cheese that I used which helped combine ingredients, unlike a hard of blue cheese which would have crumbled and made them less likely to combine.
Making the caramelised red onion chutney was very quick. It just needed the sliced red onion thrown in the pan with the balsamic vinegar and half a teaspoon of sugar (no artificial sweetener to hand). I quickly realised I had the pan too hot as the vinegar started to boil away too quickly and the onions were catching. Everything calmed down once I reduced the heat and then it just simmer nicely.
The mustardy mayo was super easy to make. I didn’t have any Dijon mustard to hand so used 1/4 teaspoon of English Mustard added to the mayo and a splash of balsamic vinegar. With a quick stir the dip was ready.
I ignored the recipe and decided to cook all the burgers in a big pan at once so everything was cooked and ready within 10 minutes. Then it was just a case of pulling together all the burger fillings and laying them out on the table. Time to tuck in.
Meal: Simple Doesn’t Mean Bland
I always enjoy a meal where everyone gets hands-ond in making their meal. They always seem like a more social affair and building these burgers was no exception. Added to that, is the great feeling of stacking the fillings into a roll to make your perfect burger. Everyone ends up with exactly what they want and conversation continues to flow throughout the meal.
The burgers were amazing. As expected with ingredients like blue cheese, Worcester sauce and Dijon mustard there were strong flavours in every mouthful. Any one of them could have overpowered the others, but instead the cheese worked well together with the mustard and Worcester sauce giving the burgers a lovely warmth that ran through the burger.
Where I’d used a soft blue cheese, there were no lumps of melted cheese hidden within the burger. I’m sure this would have given a fantastic kick of flavour that I missed so I’ll try that next time. However, while I may have missed that blue cheese kick, my non-blue-cheese-loving family much preferred the burgers this way, oblivious to the source of the strong flavours.
One thing I would say, is using small tomatoes really doesn’t work in a burger. I thought using the colourful baby tomatoes would look good, but as soon as anyone bit into a burger, the other tomatoes very quickly evacuated the bun to leave a mayo-y mess on the plate. Next time, I’ll use slices of larger tomatoes.
The caramelised onion was a great additional to the burger, but it was the mustard mayo that stole the show. Both my wife and I smothered our burgers in it, and despite the kids steering well clear, there still wasn’t enough to go round. I’ll be doubling up on this next time round.
Alcohol-Free Drink: Fortitude Fresco Pale Ale
With any great burger, a great beer should be sitting by its side. A lot of pressure then for the Fortitude Fresco Pale Ale and it more than lived up to expectations.
Poured into the glass, it gives an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful golden colour that’s crystal clear. It’s a lively beer to pour with a generous, foamy head that fades relatively quickly. Good job too, as it took me two attempts to squeeze into the glass due to the generous head (and my bad pouring).
Once my pouring debacle had passed, I took the time to stop and appreciate the aromas released from those bubbles. It was worth taking the time as there was wide a variety to be enjoyed.
First to hit me was a strong scent of stoned fruit (mango maybe?) which quickly moved onto a fantastic hit of floral hops. Underlaying all of that is the subtle sweetness of caramel that comes through strongly at the end.
Tasting the beer takes you on a similar flavour journal. Straight away the hops announce the beer arrival with a wonderful hoppy taste that carries through the beer into the aftertaste, but soon after the other flavours arrive. There’s a richness of stoned fruits that adds a layer to the flavours which it then finished off with a touch of caramel. This works wonderfully to offset some of the bitterness of the hops as the flavours fade in the aftertaste.
It’s a really good, refreshing beer that’s particularly enjoyable on its own and worked even better with this burger. Both the beer and burger were packed full of a variety of strong flavours and there’s a real risk of them clashing, but they don’t. The warmth of the burger is beautifully offset by the crisp refreshment of the pale ale’s sharp hops.
Together they make a fine pairing that will no doubt be unleashed on sunny days after firing up the BBQ. Roll on the sunshine!
Buy Your Alcohol-Free Beer
You don’t have to wait until summer to enjoy this wonderful beer. When a beer is this enjoyable, there’s always an excuse to reach for a chilled can and pour yourself a glass. Although I’d recommend not rushing it unless you want a giant foamy head like I managed.
You can grab yourself a case Fresco Pale ale or try one of their other fantastic alcohol-free beers, including the tequila flavoured Esmeralda. Even better, you can get a mix case an try all three Fortitude offerings which are all 0.5% or under:
Making this burger and all the sides really was a doddle, but as with anything that you make for the first time, there’s always something to learn from. With that in mind, here are my lessons learned for next time:
- Don’t have the pan temperature too high when cooking the caramelised onion chutney. Keep it nice and low to let the onion really take on the balsamic vinegar flavours otherwise you risk the vinegar boiling off too quickly and giving the onion a burnt edge.
- Use hard blue cheese if you want lumps of melted cheese in the burgers if you want a real kick of sharpness from the cheese. I’d recommend this if you’re a blue cheese lover.
- Use soft blue cheese if you want a more subtle flavour running through the burger. This will soften the cheese’s impact and make the burger shaping far easier.
- Use one or two slices from large tomatoes – not cherry tomatoes. One bites and these plucky little fellows make a very quick bid for freedom.
- Double, treble or quadruple the amount of mayo dip you’re making. It’s awesome!
You’ve probably realised by now, I’m a big fan of a beer & burger. It’s such a simple and fun meal that it brings a smile to my face every time. However, simplicity sometimes becomes an excuse for being quick and flavourless, which is a real shame.
These two prove that the simplicity of a beer and burger can also mean packing a serious taste sensation.
Both bring a range of flavours to the table, but without forcing the issue. There’s no one flavour trying to dominate, instead they’re both an excellent example of the individual flavours working together to give so much more. Then, when you bring the beer and burger together, you end up with a superb pairing that complement each other fantastically.