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Stewing with Beer
With the cold weather arriving and schedules getting more hectic, it’s time to turn to your favourite stew and hearty soup recipes once again.  So haul out those slow cookers and stew pots and don’t forget a bottle of beer or two.

Stewing with beer dates back centuries.  Beer was an integral part of the everyday diet for all members of the family back in the 16th and 17th centuries and beyond.  The fact that it was used in cooking should be no surprise as beer was often a great deal safer and more palatable than the average drinking water, which was often drawn from polluted rivers. 

In the 21st century, cooking with beer is really more about taste and texture.  Not only does it help tenderize the meat used in stews, but it can add a rich flavour that no spice can duplicate! 

The best type of beer for stewing is really up to the chef, although many say a richer, darker, and slightly bitter beer makes the most flavourful stew.  It’s all about individual taste, so choose a beer that you like to drink.

Here are two recipes to try….one uses a dark ale while the other calls for a lighter beer, such as a honey brown.  Try both and see which suits you best.

Beer Stew

2 ½ lb. onions, sliced
3 lb. stew beef
2 cups mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp light brown sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
11/2 – 2 bottles beer (not dark)
2 carrots, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed

Cook onions in 2 tbsp of olive oil until slightly browned.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Add carrots, mushrooms and potatoes. Set aside.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag or large bowl.   Pat beef dry & toss with flour mixture.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in large heavy skillet until hot but not smoking, then brown beef in batches, searing the outside.  Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, brown sugar, thyme and enough beer to cover the beef.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Combine all items in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours, or until meat is tender.

Beef and Ale Stew

1 lb. stewing beef
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced lengthways and roughly chopped
1 bottle of dark ale
7 oz. hot beef stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop up beef into 3 cm cubes and trim off any fat.  In 1 ½ tbsp olive oil, brown beef in a large heavy skillet, remove and set aside. 

Add the rest of the olive oil to a skillet and fry the onion, carrot and celery until browned, then add the browned beef, flour, mustard, tomato puree and brown sugar.  Stir until the meat is well covered, then add the bottle of ale as well as the beef stock.  Season with salt & pepper.  Simmer to thicken sauce to your taste, then place in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours, or until meat is tender.

These recipes are designed for the slow cookers, but can easily be completed in a heavy stew pot on the top of the stove as well.  Just set the heat low and cook until the meat is tender.