Grilled Burgers with Bacon-Onion Relish and Smoky Aïoli

Grilled Burgers with Bacon

Grilled Burgers with Bacon-Onion Relish and Smoky Aïoli, Beer at my Table by Tonia Wilson, Photography by Leonardo Frusteri

Beer has long been a beloved beverage and Beer At My Table celebrates its greatness and versatility as a brilliant partner for food. Tonia Wilson combines her extensive knowledge as a chef and beer sommelier to simplify the facts behind the fun of beer and food pairing. Whether you are just beginning to learn or are an avid enthusiast this book offers all the information needed to fully understand beer. You’ll learn the steps to properly evaluate what is in your glass, as well as how to identify the characteristics in food that will ultimately affect the pairing.

Tonia offers interesting details on how beer is made, the ingredients that go into it and the vast array of styles that can be created from four simple ingredients: water, hops, yeast and malted barley. The world is full of unique and different beer styles: pale lagers, Belgian dubbels, dry stouts, gose, lambics. The list goes on. The defining traits of 35 different beer styles are discussed; each accompanied with a seasonal recipe designed to be a perfect match, the text describes the reasons why the pairing works well and offers other examples of complementary dishes.

Beer At My Table allows you to learn the principles behind beer and food pairing and then put them into practice. Some flavourful examples are Dunkelweizen with Beef, Shitake and Bok Choy Buckwheat and English Pale Ale with Lamb and Sweet Potato Pie. There’s no better way to learn than by eating and drinking your way through each page. So, let the lessons begin, cheers!

Beer at my Table


Beer at My Table: Recipes, Beer Styles & Food Pairings, is available at and




Grilled Burgers with Bacon-Onion Relish and Smoky Aïoli

Summer makes me think of burgers on the grill, so I designed a particularly smoky one to be a great partner to this rauchbier. The beer has a big personality, with smoke its dominant flavour. The burger’s first layer of smokiness comes from the addition of smoked paprika, then the grilling process, which creates caramelized charred bits on the patty, amps up the smoke factor even further.

Still not enough smoke for you? I topped the burger with onions slowly cooked with smoky bacon, then added a rich, smoky aïoli. These burger fixings not only add flavour but also some sweet unctuousness to make the burger even more juicy. And, speaking of juicy, make sure your beef is not too lean or you will end up with dense, dry burgers.

Finally, all this juicy succulence needs a counterbalance, and the beer’s carbonation and hop bitterness are more than capable of cutting through the rich sauciness of the burger, refreshing the palate and calling you back for another bite.

Serves 4

1-1/2 lb (750 g) ground beef

1⁄2 cup (125 mL) grated cheese, such as Beemster, aged cheddar or Gruyère

1 tsp (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce

1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper

4 burger buns, split and toasted Bacon-Onion Relish (recipe follows)

Smoky Aïoli (recipe follows)

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the beef, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 4 even-sized patties.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium-high and oil the racks. Grill the burgers until lightly charred and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side.
  3. Serve the burgers in the buns, along with the bacon-onion relish and smoky aïoli.


Bacon-Onion Relish

Makes 1 cup (250 mL)

1 Tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter

4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1 large Spanish onion, very thinly sliced

1 tsp (1 mL) salt

1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) red or white wine vinegar

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, until the bacon is nicely browned and its fat is rendered, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the onion, salt and 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) water. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  3. Remove the lid and continue to simmer over low heat until all the liquid has reduced and the onions are golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely, then stir in the vinegar.


Smoky Aïoli

Makes about 1⁄2 cup (125 mL)

1⁄2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise

2 tsp (10 mL) smoked paprika

2 tsp (10 mL) your favourite hot sauce (or to taste)

1 tsp (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce

In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients until well combined.


Beer Accompaniment 

Rauchbier is a unique beer originating in the German city of Bamberg. Brewed using specialty malt that has been smoked with beechwood, it is a lager with a spicy, smoky aroma. While the intensity of the smoke varies from brewer to brewer, Bamberg-style rauchbiers are Märzen-style beers, meaning they are malt-forward amber lagers, so there should also be some sweetish malt aroma coming through alongside the smokiness.

Rauchbiers have a medium mouthfeel and a clean, dry finish and are well suited to charred or heavily roasted foods—think barbecue—so the smokiness makes sense with the food. These beers are great with meats that have inherent fattiness, such as pork shoulder or ribeye, or hard, aged cheeses like Beemster and good-quality cheddar. Rauchbiers have a moderate amount of hopping, enough to give the beers balanced mouthfeel and a little bitterness on the palate but little in the way of hop aroma.

Some creative brewers make different styles, from wheat beers to porters, but these beers are not considered traditional rauchbiers.

Pairing: Aecht Schlenkerla
Märzen, Brauerei Heller (Germany)

Others to try:

Bamberg Castle, Cameron’s Brewing (Canada), Samuel Adams Smoked Lager (USA), Spezial Rauchbier, Brauerei Spezial (Germany)

Recipe reprinted with permission from Whitecap Books.

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