Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.15

May 6, 2004


Ray Beauchemin cooks up a storm with suds

by Julie Lepsetz

Photo of Ray Beauchemin with a beer

Ray Beauchemin with his beer cookbook, published by Véhicule Press
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Put aside for a moment any perceived culinary ineptitude, and imagine creating from scratch a gourmet dinner for friends. Picture an elegant three-course meal of mushrooms and Brie in pastry, apricot chicken pilaf with almonds, and (still warm from the oven) apple blueberry crisp.

Now picture having produced each dish using a different type of beer. That’s right, beer.

If Raymond Beauchemin has his way, not only will more people discover the breadth and depth of the Quebec microbrew industry, but Pilsners, stouts, ales and lagers will become more frequent ingredients in cooking.

Beauchemin, a Massachusetts native with French-Canadian roots, is author of Salut! The Quebec Microbrewery Beer Cookbook, published by Véhicule Press. Part cookbook, part history text, it is an excellent introduction to the many varieties of artisan beers on the market.

Interestingly enough, Beauchemin, who boasts nearly a three-decade love affair with beer, was less than impressed with his first taste of the liquid. “It was very bitter. I didn’t take to it at all,” he said in a recent interview.

Fortunately, he changed his mind. The Concordia alumnus and one-time CTR freelancer credits varieties of the Boston craft brew Samuel Adams for getting him back on track.

A few years after moving permanently to Montreal in 1990, Beauchemin took a job with The Gazette, where he became the paper’s resident expert on the microbrewery scene. In fact, his first experience cooking with beer came when he needed to test a recipe for an article.

As his interest increased, Beauchemin began hosting dinners featuring beer cuisine. Whether he knew it or not at the time, he was laying the foundation for the book’s creation.

Salut! boasts a surprising assortment of menu options: hors d’oeuvres, salads, soups, main dishes, desserts and even breakfast suggestions. The recipes, from sources including brewers, chefs and friends of the author, use varying amounts of alcohol.

“Some of the best dishes are the ones that only use a small amount, because then you get to drink the rest of the bottle,” Beauchemin joked.

With the current gastronomic obsession with low carbohydrates, how does Beauchemin expect to encourage the general public to embrace beer as a cooking staple?

With the taste, of course. Beer’s caloric heft adds body and unique flavour to food. And it is important to note that a 12-ounce bottle of lager actually has fewer calories than the same quantity of apple juice or two-per-cent milk.

Then there are the health benefits. Microbrews are made with organic materials, sans preservatives; thus, not only are they tasty, they’re actually better for you than regular brands.

These days, Beauchemin has a lot on his figurative plate. He will take part in the First Annual Brewers’ Dinner, a fundraiser for Concordia’s Alumni Association, on May 20.

The featured speaker is Peter McAuslan, of McAuslan Brewing. Participants will enjoy a seven-course meal featuring recipes from Beauchemin’s book and served with appropriate beers.

Brewing in the back of his mind is the idea for a chapter on chocolate varieties and their ideal beers. The sweetness of milk chocolate, for example, melds best with either a dark or a fruit-accented beer.

Should you run into Beauchemin supping in a restaurant, don’t be surprised if he’s sipping his second-favorite beverage: wine. You won’t, however, catch him with a soft drink in hand.

“There’s nothing worse than a Coke to ruin a good meal. It’s too sweet and affects your taste,” he said.

For more information on the First Annual Brewers’ Dinner, or to register for tickets, please visit