A Shrimp Boil

Craft Ales That Won't Make Your Shrimp Go Stale

It's May, so time to think about summer and all that outdoor cooking and grilling

Whether for a summer beach party, a Fourth of July bash, or a cookout with family in your yard, nothing says summer like a classic beer shrimp boil. Lighter craft ales work perfectly with the delectable seafood and accompaniments such as baby potatoes, watermelon, and corn. 

Even better, when you throw a shrimp boil, everyone shares in preparing the food. A big pot bubbling away over a fire is one of the simplest, most primitive cooking methods, yet shrimp boils are one of the most delicious ways to feed a crowd.

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There are numerous recipes to choose from, ranging from a Cajun-spiced Lousiana shrimp boil to a New England-style beer shrimp boil, with potatoes playing an essential part of the dish.

Whatever recipe you go for, opt for high-quality shrimp and tasty craft beer, and you can't go wrong with this All-American classic. And using large shrimp will give your seafood feast the WOW! factor, turning it into a gastronomic experience to be savored. 

There are numerous options when considering which style of beer to use for your shrimp boil. More strongly flavored brews such as sour beers are preferable, although too much bitterness will not complement the shrimp's sweetness. You're looking for beers with distinctive malty, hoppy citrus, or herby notes.

The following beer styles top our list of potential candidates:  Craft lagers, Pilsners, Helles, Dunkel, and bock beers from KC Bier in Kansas City are packed with herby/citrusy aromas that marry well with the spices and the delicate sweetness the shrimp.

Martin City Brewing Company, one of Missouri's best-loved craft breweries, always offers an array of ales ideal for your next shrimp boil. Beers to try are Saisons, Gose, pale ales with low bitterness and IPAs (India pale ales) with a classic citrusy/floral hop aroma. 

The clean, citrusy yeast flavors of American wheat ales are also excellent when paired with shrimp. 

For our recipe, we chose Boulevard Wheat from Boulevard Brewing Co., a refreshing, brightly-flavored ale that's low in bitterness.

You'll also need some flavoring ingredients: Onion to bring a savory flavor to the boil;  Mustard seed and bay leaf infuse the boil with distinctive spicy, aromatic notes. Citrus: lemon or lime wedges both add sharp, bright notes. 

Seasoning enhances the flavor and adds salinity. Add it to the boiling beer and also use it to season your shrimp when cooked. Old Bay seasoning is a classic choice, or you can use your homemade mix: see the recipe below and tweak it to your liking. 

How to make a "beered-up" shrimp boil? Well, take three 12-ounce bottles of Boulevard Wheat or craft beer and pour the contents into a large pan. Wait for your beer to go flat. Add a quarter cup of Old Bay Seasoning plus two teaspoons of ground turmeric. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cook over medium heat for five minutes.

In the meantime, rinse two pounds of large shrimp (11 or 12 to the pound) in cold, fresh water and drain carefully. If you're using frozen shrimp, they have already been deveined. If your shrimp are new and have a dark vein along the back, remove it carefully by splitting the shell and peeling it away. It will also make it easier to remove the shell after cooking. Add the shrimp to the boiling liquid and stir. Cover and cook them for five minutes but no longer. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp, peel them, and enjoy them immediately, accompanied by cocktail sauce, drawn butter, more lemon or lime wedges, and, naturally, more beer. Bon Appetit! 

When making seasoning mix many people swear by Old Bay Seasoning. This classic mixture gives a well-balanced flavor to a beer shrimp boil, but you might like to experiment by creating your unique blend. The basics include one teaspoon of salt, celery salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, dried thyme, dried oregano, plus half a teaspoon of black pepper. You can adjust the proportions to taste.

Then there are the variations.  A Cajun shrimp boil is a one-pot meal that includes potatoes, sausage, corn, and shrimp. Garlic and the all-important Cajun seasoning add a spicy, fiery note.

The best sides to accompany your shrimp boil include coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad, crusty bread, baked beans, and mac' n' cheese. Round up your family and friends, cover the picnic table with newspaper, serve your shrimp on paper plates, and enjoy a glass or two of your favorite ice-cold ale.

Kevin Fagan is Content Manager, LobsterAnywhere Inc. Amesbury, Massachusetts. More at or call (978)225-8828.