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I got to thinking... I usually hear chefs (particularly Alton Brown as of late, since I am watching Good Eats) say that water is neutral and should only be used as a last resort, serving only to dilute without adding anything to the mix (when it comes to sauces and the like).

I made a stock once, that came out a little boring, so I was thinking. What if I use a lager, or even a light ale instead? (light as in not dark, not calorie-free). I'd possibly need to degas it first to get rid of the CO2, but I think it sounds kind of delicious...

Has anyone tried this before, or can anyone think of any reason not to? Would the flavor be weird, what about other liquids? Is it commonly done?

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Stock is often used in recipes where you might otherwise use water; it provides flavor instead of diluting. I don't think Alton Brown meant you should make your stock using beer instead of water, and make the beer using something else instead of water, and... Good question, though! –  Jefromi Jan 13 '12 at 20:46
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If your stock came out boring, I dare say you should be asking a question about that—stock should taste good. Maybe you didn't simmer long enough, didn't have the right ratio, or need a touch of salt. But also remember that stock isn't exceptionally interesting (as it is often supposed to take a background role). –  derobert Jan 13 '12 at 21:44
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I personally dont salt stock when making, as I dont know what I'll be adding it to, I just season the final dish properly. –  NBenatar Jan 14 '12 at 13:29

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There's no particular reason you couldn't prepare a stock with something other than water, but it's the equivalent of buying a ream of heavy pink paper, rather than plain white photocopy paper. If that's the effect you really want, great. The thing is, stock is meant to be as boring as plain white photocopy paper -- it is a foundation for other things, versatile and effective, subtly enhancing without overwhelming the dish. For your beer idea, for example, I would cook down a couple bottles and add some stock to it. That way, the rest of my batch of stock would be useful for other recipes that don't use beer.

Note that stock may be boring but shouldn't be flavorless; stock still should taste good. If your stock was flavorless, try upping the amount of meat, veggies, and herbs compared to bones. Also, bear in mind that stock should not contain salt (you will likely reduce the stock at some point). The lack of salt, however, will deaden the flavor. When you are ready to use the stock, be sure to add a pinch of salt.

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Fair enough... I guess I can chalk it up to anticipation. After 6 or more hours, at around 3 am since I started late, I tasted the golden liquid and lo; it was the flavor of water and beef. Completely underwhelming! Thanks for your answer :) –  Max Jan 14 '12 at 14:21

A good stock is clean of oils and smells great. Flavour is going to be on the thin side. Consomme, which is what you are probably mentally comparing to, is a reduced beef stock with some added meat bits (a farce sp?) added to give it a flavour kick. A stock should never be that strong. Alton was probably saying that using water for braising and sauce making is bad, and he's right. The best sauces are made with great stocks as their base and then through reduction and additions of other flavouring agents and garnishes turned into things of beauty. A stock made with an ale sounds like a great experiment but it would be limited in it's uses. Braising some pork with a sweet dark ale is a great flavour enhancing dish. Play around and write down what works.

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