Recipe: Sour Ale and Ginger Spice Cookies

December 17, 2018

By Ben Mims, December 17, 2018

German spice cookies, called lebkuchen, make an ideal cookie to incorporate beer into thanks to their use of lots of strong spices and cakey texture. Sour ale provides the perfect balance of acidity and bitterness in this iteration, both in the soft cookie and in the glaze that enrobes the top. If you can only fine candied orange peel, feel free to double the amount and not use candied lemon peel. If you can’t find either one, omit them both; the cookies will be fine.


1 1/2 cups sour ale (one 12-ounce bottle)

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour (2 ounces)

1/4 cup minced candied orange peel (1 3/4 ounces)

1/4 cup minced candied lemon peel (1 3/4 ounces)

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/3 cups packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 ounces sliced candied ginger, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips


1. Pour the beer into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat (see *Note). Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beer cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Note: Beer foams up wildly when it first starts to boil. Avoid stirring the beer until the foam subsides on its own, after about 4 minutes, or else you run the risk of the foam bubbling over the side of the pot. You can either skim off the foam from the bubbling beer or not; it doesn’t make a difference in the final taste of the beer in the cookie.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cream and vinegar and let stand until thickened, about 30 minutes.   

3. Heat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, candied orange and lemon peels, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar and butter together on medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the reduced sour ale and the thickened cream, and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.

5. Working in  batches, use a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or 2 tablespoons to scoop the dough into mounds on the prepared sheets, spacing them 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until lightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

6. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup reduced sour ale and the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. (If necessary, add more sour ale or water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin enough to see through when you dip the back of a spoon in it.)

7. Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Transfer the cookies to a rack, top with a strip of candied ginger, and let the cookies stand until the glaze sets, at least 10 minutes, before serving.

Makes about 42 cookies

Baking with beer tip: Because cookies are a notoriously low-moisture genre of baked goods, it’s difficult to fit a beer’s-worth of flavor into them. Unlike liquor or flavor extracts, beer is mostly water, so to concentrate its flavor, it needs to be reduced down to a very small amount. For all these recipes, you will need to reduce a standard 12-ounce beer, which is 1 1/2 cups liquid, down to 1/2 to 1/4 cup, depending on the recipe. And even in this concentrated form, the flavor of the beer might still not be noticable if just baked into the dough of a cookie, so you’ll see that I use the beer in the glazes and fillings that top each cookie to keep the beer aroma and flavor physically near your nose as you bite into each cookie, so you’re aware of it first thing.

Also, obviously, beer is bitter and cookies are sweet. To help counteract any imbalance of flavors in these cookies that can happen by adding such a highly concentrated dose of bitterness, I use finishing/decorating sugars for all these cookies. They not only make the final cookies look better, but add another layer of raw sugar sweetness that works with these pleasantly bitter cookies. Look for them at baking supply stores in your area or  

Photo by Liz Clayman.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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