My family used to gather, when I was a child, at my aunt's house in Elizabeth, N.J. After meals the adults would doze or converse, and eventually the children's restlessness and high visibility would drive them into retaliation. So in desperation my older cousin, "Deadeye," would lead us of the junior family up to the dark attic to rummage around and tell ghost stories. Among the treasures stored in the attic was a pair of massive oak swinging doors that had stood for decades at the entrance of the family beer garden and saloon. Thanks to Aunt Adelaide's vigilance the doors had survived two world wars and a series of knotty pine recreation room renovations.

In the old country my family were brewers: the tradition continued in the new world. From the beginning everyone participated in the running of business. The children would watch with delight as the barrels rolled down the chute in the cellar from the horse-drawn cart. Alas, the doors, the memories and a few recipes are all that's left from that era when a glass of beer was a nickel and that included a free lunch.

Beer gardens may vanish, but beer itself goes on and on, as it has since our earliest forebears invented it as means of providing an uncontaminated beverage. By mixing grain, yeast and hops, and allowing them to ferment, a nutritious, slightly alcoholic, effervescent brew was produced. Perhaps because the climate does not support the grape well, beer became -- and remains -- the beverage of the common people in northern Europe and those who trace their origins to that part of the world.

In the United States, beer, usually lager, is consumed in vast quantities, almost always straight, unmixed with anything else. But beer blended with other liquids, as the following recipes illustrate, can add up to a glassful of many another piquant beverage.

The familiar brew can also lend a velvety richness to foods from appetizers to desserts. American cooks are increasingly accustomed to the culinary possibilities of wine, but not enough yet realize the impact of beer in their batter or -- even more surprising perhaps -- the mysterious earthy tang it can lend to chocolate cake. So pop open a top and see. BEER DRINKS

This is a thirst-quenching favorite of English cricket players. LIME AND LAGER

Add l 1/2 teaspoons Rose's Lime Juice to a 12 to 14 ounce pilsner glass or mug and fill to brim with beer.

These typical summertime favorites are served in cafes throughout France. PANACHE

One-half glass carbonated lemon-flavored soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up, and 1/2 glass beer. MONACO

One tablespoon grenadine added to 1/2 glass lemon-flavored soda and l/2 glass beer.

These pups were born in the southern part of the United States and are served regularly at the Tombs in Georgetown. RED DOG

One-half glass tomato juice added to 1/2 glass beer. DIRTY DOG

One-half glass tomato juice added to 1/2 glass dark beer. SHRIMP IN BEER 2pounds unshelled shrimp Beer to cover, about 2 12-ounce bottles or cans 2 bay leaves 1 teaspoon coriander seed 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon gound cumin Juice from 1/2 lemon plus peel, sliced Salt to taste

Rinse shrimp. Combine remaining ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Add shrimp. Simmer covered 3 to 5 minutes. Be sure that you do not overcook shrimp. Drain and serve with cocktail sauce or melted butter. CARBONNADES A LA FLAMANDE

This is a traditional Belgian beef stew. It is delicious any time of the year. Made in quantity, it freezes beautifully and it is as equally at home on the family dinner table or a company holiday buffet. To round out the meal serve the stew with boiled parsley potatoes and make sure that there is plenty of cold beer to wash it all down. 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 pounds lean stew beef cut in 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch cubes Flour for dredging, mixed with salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 12-ounce can or bottle of beer 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1 pound carrots, sliced

In a Dutch oven or heavy deep skillet heat oil until hot but not smoking. Dredge beef in flour. Add to hot oil and brown on all sides. Add onions and saute' until transparent. Do not let beef or onions stick or burn. Add beer. Simmer for three minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme and carrots. Cover, reduce heat and cook over a medium flame until beef is tender. BEER BATTER

This eggless batter, of Swiss origin, may be used with your favorite vegetables, poultry, fish or meat. To ensure success, take care that the surface of whatever you are dipping into the batter is as dry as possible. Fry in the usual manner. 2 cups beer 2 1/2 cups flour Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients. Before using the batter let it stand for several hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. SAUFRES BRUXELLOISES

Brussels beer waffles 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 12-ounce bottles or cans beer 2 eggs 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients. Let rest at room temperature for two hours or overnight in refrigerator. Lightly oil waffle iron and spread batter evenly on its surface. Bake until brown. Depending upon the size of the waffle iron, this recipe should make 14 waffles.

As garnish on the waffles, offer syrup, cinnamon and sugar, fresh fruit or berries, sour cream or ice cream. CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

A cake made with beer? Yes, as strange as it may seem the beer introduces a subtle richness that balances out the chocolate flavor. 2 eight-inch layer pans, well-greased 2 squares unsweetened chocolate 1 2/3 cups sifted flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup shortening 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 3/4 cup beer 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Melt chocolate in a pan over hot water. Sift all dry ingredients together. Cream shortening with sugar, add eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients, mixing with beer until well blended. Stir in nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean. Cover with your favorite frosting when cooled. SAUERKRAUT WITH KNOCKWURST OR FRANKFURTERS 1 quart canned or packaged sauerkraut 2 cloves garlic, crushed freshly ground black pepper 1 medium onion stuck with 5 or 6 cloves 1 tablespoon caraways seeds 1 apple, peeled and cored Pinch of thyme Beer to cover Knockwurst or frankfurters

Drain sauerkrautm, add garlic, pepper, onion, caraway seeds, apple and thyme. Cover with beer. Simmer on top of stove for 35 minutes. If you are adding knockwurst, do so for the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking. If you are adding frankfurters, do so the last five minutes of cooking. Be careful not to pierce the skin of the wurst.