A Taste of the Islands: Hawaiian-Style Beer Cuisine

Cooking with Beer by | Apr 2009 | Issue #27
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Feeling like an island vacation with the sounds of waves and a distant echo of a slack-key guitar? The sweet, floral smells that only a rainforest can bring right before the rain? The Polynesian-, Chinese- and Japanese-fusion cuisine that has evolved over time on the islands of Hawaii can easily become a feast for one or many, creating a mini tropical vacation at home.

Kahlúa Pig
No Hawaiian luau would be complete without Kahlúa pig. Traditionally, a whole pig is prepared and buried in the ground, and slowly cooked for hours in an imu, or pit. By adding a smoked brew to this recipe, the need for a big hole in the backyard is no longer essential.

Feeds: 4–6 hungry people

4–6 each ti or banana leaves*
2 tbsp. olive oil
5–6 lb. pork butt or shoulder
2 tbsp. Hawaiian sea salt
22–24 oz. smoked beer, Rauchbier or Hair of the Dog Adam

*Available at Asian or Hispanic markets either in fresh or frozen form.

Preheat the oven to 225°F. Using a 12-quart stock pot, Dutch oven or Crock-Pot, coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of olive oil. Next, arrange leaves in a bed overlapping each other, and then center the piece of pork on top. Season the pork with the salt, and wrap the leaves to cover. Pour the smoked beer into the pot and seal tightly with aluminum foil. Top with the lid to keep all the liquid in the pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and roast for 8–10 hours (or turn on the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 6–8 hours).

The finished meat should fall apart to the touch, but still be able to hold its shape. Remove the pork from the cooking pot and set onto a serving dish, rewrapping it with the aluminum foil to keep warm. Place the cooking pot back on the stove over high heat and reduce the beer/drippings to a medium-thick syrup, about 6–10 minutes. While the drippings cook down, unwrap the pork. Then, using two forks, flake out the meat into medium-sized shreds/chunks. Pour the reduced liquid over the top and toss to evenly combine. Serve immediately.

Hawaiian-Style Teriyaki Beef Short Ribs
Serve with two scoops of cooked rice.

Feeds: 6–8 servings

3 lb. beef short ribs
1/2 recipe teriyaki base sauce

This recipe is best prepared a day or two in advance, allowing time for the meat to marinate. Place the ribs in a sealable container that’s long enough to allow the ribs to lay flat, and coat with the teriyaki sauce. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

If using a grill, indirect heat will cook low and slow, yielding excellent results. Because the marinate has a high sugar content, flip occasionally to avoid burning. Cook until the rib bones are loose, about 20–25 minutes. Alternatively, these ribs can be cooked in a preheated 300°F oven on a rack for about 25 minutes. Take the remaining marinate and place in a medium-sized pot over low heat; bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by a third. Using a brush, baste the ribs before serving, and serve the sauce on the side.

Teriyaki Base Sauce
So much better than anything you find on the shelves at your local market, and easy to make.

Makes: about 1 pint

1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup citrusy IPA
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup molasses
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (optional and more to taste for spicier sauce)
1/4 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
4 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 each green onions, minced fresh ground white pepper, to taste

In a pint-sized masonry jar, add all the ingredients, seal with a lid and shake well. Refrigerate until ready to use.


  • Try marinating fish (salmon, ahi), chicken, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, sweet potato and squash) overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate and infuse into the protein
  • Fry some chicken wings and toss with 1/4 cup to coat
  • Use as a sauce in a stir-fry
  • Toss with soba or other style noodles
  • Reduce in a pan over low heat and use as a glaze

Macaroni Salad
Simple, classic and a great side dish to any Hawaiian meal.

Serves: 6–8 people

1 lb. dried macaroni pasta
1 cup mayonnaise, preferably Best Foods
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. dry malt extract (DME)
1 each carrot, large, peeled and grated
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Cook the pasta following the manufacturer’s directions. In a bowl, add the mayo, milk and DME, and mix with a whisk until combined. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, add the cooled and cooked pasta, grated carrots and the dressing. Mix to incorporate evenly and transfer to a serving bowl.

If the salad is not served right away, refrigerate. Then refresh the salad with a touch of mayo and milk before serving.