American Craft Beer Cookbook

By John Holl:
John Holl, an enthusiast who believes that there’s a perfect beer for every meal, conducts an exciting tour of delicious food designed to eat with fine craft beer. Thinking beyond standard burgers and nachos, talented brewpub chefs offer pairings such as Pistachio-Crusted Salmon Sandwiches served with a bright hefeweizen, and Curried Pumpkin Chicken Soup paired with — what else? — a pumpkin stout. Craft beer never tasted so good.

This cookbook, authored by the son of my first cousin John G. Holl, was laying around the house when I visited sister Lolly and her husband Paul in western Michigan a few weeks ago. Our visit occurred on an absolutely stunning, 75-degree, early September weekend, and we therefore determined a BBQ was in order. I believe it was Paul who thumbed through his copy of The American Craft Cookbook and found the recipe for the Roasted Chipotle Salsa Burger, and then a shopping trip ensued to purchase the perfect ingredients. Alas, we did not have access to the suggested beers from John’s book, but for those of us who like a hefty spice note, this burger was for us!


Not everybody dining with us that evening, which included Lisa Samson, Desi Samson and Betty Ann Holl, had a penchant for spicy food, so they ate their burgers without the salsa and with mild colby cheese slices as opposed to the pepper-jack cheese for the zesty burger crew. The addition of ripe avocado sections atop the salsa provided a smooth counterbalance to the smoky chipotle flavor.


Roasted Chipotle Salsa Ingredients

  • 7 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 dried chipotle chiles, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt

Make the salsa

  1. Combine the chiles, tomato, onion, cilantro and garlic in a medium saucepan. Cook over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture comes to a simmer.
  2. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Mash the ingredients together with a potato masher for a thicker salsa or an immersion blender for a finer salsa, adding salt to taste. Allow the mixture to cool in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or for up to 3 days before serving.

Burger Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 8 buns
  • 8 slices monterey jack cheese
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and thinly sliced
  • Tortilla chips for serving

Mix beef through garlic powder in bowl and form into 8 patties. Grill according to your preference. Add cheese slices and cover grill until cheese melts. Add to buns and layer mixture and avocado slices on top. Mangia!

To purchase John’s book visit his website at

About Those Avocados—
Although most avocados you find at the store are hard, some stores carry ripe, ready-to-eat avocadoes for their customers. An avocado is ripe when its skin turns from green to a dark brown-green color and “gives” slightly when it is gently squeezed. You can select the best, ripe and ready-to-eat avocado by looking for one that is slightly soft, without dark sunken spots or cracks. Obviously, these signs apply not only to avocados that are ripe in the store, but to those at home, giving you signs as to when your fruit has reached the perfect time to be eaten. Be sure not to purchase avocados that rattle when you shake them. This means the pit is pulled away from the flesh and it is overripe.

How to Store Avocados After You Bring Them Home
Never refrigerate unripened (hard) avocados because they will not ripen in cold temperatures.
Unripened (hard) avocados are best stored in a cool dark place until they have ripened.

If Your Avocados are Not Ripe, Here’s How to Ripen Them
Place unripe avocados in a brown paper bag to ripen. This traps the ethylene gas they produce and helps them to ripen. A firm avocado placed in a paper bag will ripen at room temperature in about three to six days. As the fruit ripens, the skin color will darken.

How to Speed Up the Ripening of Your Avocados
Add a tomato, apple or banana to a paper bag in which you have placed an avocado. This will produce more ethylene gas and speed up the ripening process. It will usually only take one to three days to ripen.

When to refrigerate avocados
Only refrigerate ripe avocados. Avocados will keep for up to 5 days when refrigerated but leaving them too long in the refrigerator will cause them to lose their flavor and begin to turn dark in color. Avoid slicing avocados before refrigerating as they will turn brown after they are cut.

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