Beer enhanced BBQ adds unexpected flavor to ribs

Intro By Pam George | Photograph by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the April 2020 issue


Lou Ortiz loves beer — The Delaware native is the executive chef at Thompson Island Brewing Company, located on Route 1 near the entrance to downtown Rehoboth Beach. The restaurant, part of the SoDel Concepts hospitality group, opened in late 2019, and it’s one of many beach establishments focusing on ales, IPAs, stouts and sours.

This is not the first time that the chef has worked in a brewpub kitchen. Ortiz has been with Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Newark and Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pa., as well as the Blackbird Public House in Denver. “I love the brewery vibe,” he says.



Not surprisingly, Ortiz knows how to craft recipes using the brewery’s products. Thompson Island Brewing Company’s barbecued ribs are a perfect example. The sauce for this finger-licking dish contains the brewery’s Cosmic Cow Milk Stout.

Why not an ale? Stout is a dark-colored beer with the flavor of roasted malt. There are many variations, and milk lactose adds sweetness. “Stout flavors, including coffee and chocolate, pair well with the smoky char, and they complement many barbecue flavors,” Ortiz explains.“The marriage elevates the food and beverage.”

His tip: “Make sure you have the time, and don’t rush the process.” Get all your ingredients together. Make the spice rub and sauce in advance if you wish. Ortiz uses a scale to measure most ingredients, a precise approach you may have noticed on TV programs like “The Great British Baking Show.” (You can find an inexpensive kitchen scale on Amazon or in local stores.)

Here’s another tip: Buy enough beer to sip while you wait. But go easy. The milk stout has 6.6 percent alcohol by volume.


(Serves 4 with a half-rack each)

2           full racks of ribs
4           tablespoons of Dijon mustard

For the rub:
1       cup of brown sugar
1       ounce of black pepper
1       ounce of smoked paprika
½      ounce of dried mustard
½      ounce of onion powder
½      ounce of garlic powder
1 ½   tablespoons of kosher salt
1       ounce of cayenne pepper

For the sauce:
¼      pound of butter
1       cup of brown sugar
2       cups of ketchup
½      cup of yellow mustard
1       cup molasses
½      cup of Worcestershire sauce
2       cups of Thompson Island Brewing Company Cosmic Cow beer or any other stout or milk stout
3 ½   ounces of chipotle in adobo (canned smoked jalapeños in a sauce, available in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores)
1 ½   ounces of coarsely ground black pepper
1       ounce of cayenne pepper
1       ounce of onion powder
½      ounce of garlic powder
½      ounce of smoked paprika

STEP 1 Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. With a knife, score the back of the spareribs’ skin to keep the fat from curling. Cut slits about an eighth- to a quarter-inch deep, about 1 inch apart. Mix together the dry rub ingredients. With a small scoop, generously cover the ribs with that mix and rub it in until the ribs are fully coated.

STEP 2 Put the ribs on a tray and cook for one hour (until you can run your finger along the ribs without removing any rub).

STEP 3 Remove the ribs and rub them with a light coating of Dijon mustard, about 2 tablespoons per side. Wrap the ribs with aluminum foil to keep them moist. Increase the heat to 325 degrees, return the ribs to the oven and cook for three hours.

STEP 4 While the ribs are in the oven, begin making the sauce. In a pot, melt the butter and incorporate the brown sugar. Add all the liquid (ketchup, molasses, mustard, Worcestershire, beer, chipotle in adobo). Allow the ingredients to blend together and simmer on the stove.

STEP 5 Once the sauce is hot, add the remaining spices and test for taste. Add more molasses for more sweetness or more cayenne for more heat. Cool and store.

STEP 6 When the ribs are done, remove them and allow them to rest without cutting for 10 minutes. Cut the ribs to your desired portion size, lather each portion with the sauce on both sides, and serve.

Serving suggestion: Place on top of crispy fries and serve with coleslaw, cornbread and more BBQ sauce.