Thursday 5 April 2012

Bamberg Baked Beans

What happens if you take a classic recipe – Boston Baked Beans – and add a bottle of Schlenkerla Rauchbier to it?

Boston Baked Beans is something I’ve wanted to cook for ages. Eating burnt end beans in Brooklyn kicked off the obsession which was compounded by seeing this recipe on Food Stories (Helen definitely writes the best food blog around). Those mixed with my curious side which wondered how I could beer-it-up.

Rauchbier was the obvious answer. It’s low in bitterness, uniquely meaty and smells like the fire these beans should be cooked over. It’s also incredible with the rich flavours of meat and beans (see: sausage, chips and beans). 

I took Helen’s recipe from Food Stories and halved it as I was cooking for one. I soaked the beans and then when I put them on for their initial cook, the part where you boil hard for 10 minutes, I under-filled the water by approximately the volume of a bottle of rauchbier. When they were into the gentle simmer stage I poured in the beer.

(I then went for a run, knowing I had an hour until I had to do anything. Getting back from the run, the house was filled with the smell of bacon, sweet smoke and the smokiness of beans cooking.)

Then the recipe just went as it should and over five hours after I started (the actual time needed to concentrate on any cooking is about 20 minutes, the rest of the time you just let it cook) it was a dark, bubbling pot of delicious-looking beans. 

Does it taste like smoke? Not especially, which is a shame, but you still know a bottle of beer’s been nearby as it gives a background depth and richness. I guess the smoke is dominant in the aroma which is driven off in the cooking, but who knows. To enhance the smokiness then smoked bacon would pimp it. And this obviously needs a rauchbier on the side. I had the Helles and the Marzen – the Helles was too delicate but the Marzen wrapped me in a beautiful cloud of meat and smoke.


  1. My dark cooking opinion: These baked beans are cooked in a three-stage process. Soaking, boiling and baking with the other ingredients when they 're boiled.

    So how about using the beer in every stage? Soaking the beans in beer instead of water, pouring the beer in the genlte simmer stage as you well did and finally, adding about a cup of beer together with everything else just before you put the casserole into the oven.

    The extra liquids will evaporate with high oven temperature anyway, but I believe the beer taste will be more obvious!

  2. Yeah smoked bacon would definitely have given you that flavour. Genius though! I LOVE the idea of adding beer to these beans. In fact, I really should stop myself more often and think, 'would this be improved by adding beer'.

  3. If I remember rightly the Schlenkerla Helles is not actually a rauchbier as it has no rauchmalz in the grist. It picks up its smokiness from being brewed on the same kit as the other Schlenkerla brews. It is a damned fine Helles though, and definitely up there with my favourite pale lagers.

  4. A couple of things may help get that smokey flavour. I always add a bit of spanish smoked paprika. Also the great Sean Paxton always recommends adding an additional splash of your cooking beer at the very end of cooking so you regain any of the aromatic flavours lost by long cooking.

  5. Stone's Smoked Porter works very well in baked beans. Upping the amount of molasses will help with also help with the perceived smokiness—and yes, true American-style, smokey bacon is a necessity for Boston baked beans!

    By the way, did you know that the Atlanta Braves baseball team, were once the Boston Beaneaters?