These Jam-Makers Just Made It OK to Have Beer for Breakfast
We spoke to the Vermont couple selling 3,000 jars of “Beer Jelly” a week, a spreadable jam made with stouts and pale ales from local breweries.
Photo courtesy Potlicker Kitchen.
There are a few situations in life in which it's socially acceptable to have beer for breakfast. Maybe you're seeing out a particularly wild night with the dregs of a semi-warm can of Foster's—that's (just about) OK. Perhaps you've got an early morning flight and that full English at the airport Wetherspoons is just calling out to be washed down with a cold pint. Understandable, we've all been there.
But having a beer with your weekday morning toast? That's the kind of behaviour that has people sitting you down on the sofa for a "quiet word."
None of this stopped Vermont-based entrepreneurs Walt and Nancy Warner from turning beer into jam. Yup, like a reverse, condiment Jesus, they've turned the yeasty beverage into the kind of stuff you slather on your croissants or spread on slices of breakfast wholemeal.
The pair's "Beer Jelly" promises a "deep and bold" flavour and is made with a range of stouts and pale ales from local breweries, combined with cane sugar and citrus pectin. Unfortunately for people who don't drink beer for its taste, the alcoholic content of the beer evaporates during the cooking process, making Beer Jelly entirely alcohol free. This hasn't stopped the pair's Potlicker Kitchen business selling 3,000 jars of the stuff each week, though.
Of course, non-liquid beer isn't an entirely new idea, but it has proven hard to get right. Italian brewer Claudio Lorenzini came up with first successful beer spread in 2013 but his version was more of a pâté with an "intense aroma."
I got in touch with Walt to find out what it is about his Beer Jelly that has successfully turned the alcoholic beverage into acceptable breakfast condiment.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Walt. How did you and Nancy get into making beer jelly? Walt Warner: It was an idea that Nancy came up with. We lived in a house that had a big black berry patch in the backyard, and she started dabbling making jams and jellies. She liked to tell people she had a canning addiction. In the winter of 2011, when she ran out of fresh fruit, she started moving onto other things, including balsamic vinegar, coffee, and wine and found she could turn anything into jelly with a little work.
Then she was like, "I like beer and we have plenty of beer in the house so let's make jelly out of beer!" She was working on it for about two or three weeks and finally got one that worked.
What kind of person buys beer jelly? I can't really narrow it down to one demographic. We do a lot of live events, when we are tasting, selling, and sampling at the same time. We get a great response. People will come by, see what we're selling, and are little bit intrigued and sceptical but the minute they taste it, you can see their entire attitude changes in their face. They get this big smile and they can't believe what they're trying.
We get hipsters who are into their craft beer buy it but also seniors who we meet at these craft shows here in Vermont. There's a lot of jam-makers in the state of Vermont and we have to set ourselves apart from the rest.
And how exactly do you make spreadable beer? It's basically the same recipe or technique you would use for any other jelly, except instead of using something like grape juice, we use a gold juice like beer. When you're making jams and jelly, you start off with your base—which is your fruit juice—and you heat it up and bring it to a boil, and then you add some citrus pectin. The boiling point for the sugar is 221 degrees, so it evaporates most of the actual alcohol from it by the time it gets into the jar.
We get hipsters who are into their craft beer buy it but also seniors who we meet at these craft shows here in Vermont.
Tell me about the different flavours of Beer Jelly you have We sell eight flavours of Beer Jelly. That number fluctuates from time to time, sometimes we do custom orders and collaborations with local breweries here in Vermont. The flavours we usually keep in stock are black IPA, a normal IPA, oatmeal stout, a porter, an apricot ale, a pumpkin ale, and we also do a lager.
My personal favourite is one we don't offer for sale, it's an American Double IPA made out of a beer that's very popular up here called a Heady Topper, made by The Alchemist Brewery. We call it our Heady Jelly.
Sounds great. Apart from spreading it on toast, what other dishes does the jelly work well with? You've got to let your imagination run wild. For example, with the apricot ale, we made something similar to cinnamon sticky rolls where we lay out the rolls, add cinnamon to it, and instead of using honey, we'll paste it with some apricot beer jelly. We'd then roll it up in to a roll and then slice it. We'd then put the slices into a cast iron skillet and bake it in the oven. It comes out just like a cinnamon roll except it's made with beer jelly.
The uses for the beer jelly range. We're located in Vermont, so not only is the beer industry a big thing, but the dairy and cheese industries are as well. The beer jelly is a great pairing for cheeses. The IPA pairs well with good sharp cheddar and you can grill the Beer Jelly with chicken and use oatmeal stout with short ribs.
Have you thought about making other types of spreadable alcohol? We sell four different wine jellies. We get some cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and other spices and simmer it over the pot of wine after it's had a chance to steam for a bit. It's like mulled wine and tastes like the holidays.
We also make a rosemary garlic chablis. We use fresh garlic and shave it down to thin slices, and we also use fresh organic sage and then we'll simmer that in the wine. When we're done making jelly, we'll pour the garlic and rosemary into the jar to suspend it in the jelly. It looks great in the jar and it's a great pairing for certain meats. I usually tell people to eat the chablis as they would with mint jelly with their pork.
Were there any flavours that didn't quite work out? For some reason, maple syrup doesn't gel. So that was one that didn't really work out as well. We've also made some jellies based on cocktails, such as a Manhattan (whisky, sweet vermouth, and bitters.) That didn't really gel that well either, as well as bourbon and vanilla bean. In those cases, most of the alcohol didn't evaporate. Those were the ones that didn't work out so well. The beer and the wine jellies seemed to work out just fine.