Cooking with Beer: The More Perfect Way (of cooking)



This is part of a loose series of mine entitled: Toward a Theology of Food


Proof of Beer’s Overall Culinary & Nutritional Superiority above all other Food & Beverage

Brewing Up a Civilization – Spiegel Online


General Guidelines for Cooking with Beer

1. Good beer makes good food.  Conversely, bad beer makes bad food.

2. Never use all your beer for cooking.  Save some for more traditional purposes.

3. Ne Quid Nemis.  Balance and Counterpoint is key (see the note about prunes in the recipe below).

4. The darker the malt the fuller the flavor imparted to the dish (this is a general rule of thumb, sure to have exceptions).


Guinness Beef Stew

I can’t take full credit for this recipe, it is merely my adaptation of about seven of the dozens of recipes for this delectable dish that you can find on the internet. 

2 lb. lean stew beef (I’ll bet lamb or mutton would be good as well, but they would make the whole thing a lot greasier and fattier).

1/2 cup (or so) flour

3 tablespoons (give or take) of olive oil.  The use of canola oil will doom the whole project to failure, so don’t.

1 bullion cube- chicken or beef (I actually like chicken bullion in this recipe.  Go figure.) Alternatively, you can make your own broth or stock.

4 carrots

1 white onion

2  1/2  cups water

1   12 oz. bottle of Guinness Extra Stout- do not use the draft cans or bottles. 

1/2 cup of pitted prunes.  This is seriously the key to the whole thing.  The first time I made this stew I was like, “Prunes are for old people!  That’s stupid!” And I didn’t put them in.  The resulting stew was nasty.  It tasted like pieces of meat floating in three day old stale beer.  You couldn’t eat it.  This is a part of the recipe that one should definitely experiment with, however; less prunes will give you more bitterness, more prunes make it sweeter.  I feel like 1/2 cup or so provides a balance: the flavors of the beer, including its bitterness, can be fully tasted and enjoyed, but are not overpowering.  You could also try raisins or dried apricots, or dried cranberries.  Just don’t forget to add some sort of dried fruit.

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary (maybe wrapped in cheesecloth)

1/2 cup of chopped parsley (for garnish)

 Salt and pepper to taste (don’t be too stingy with it)

1.Mix the flour in with the little cubes of beef.  If the beef is really fatty, you may want to cut some of the fat off before you do this.  In a fry-pan, brown the beef on all sides using about two tablespoons of oil or so.  In your big stew pot, boil the water and add the bullion cube.  My feeling is that a copper pot would be ideal for this stew, but if you haven’t robbed a Williams & Sonoma lately, or if you’re not rich, you’ll probably have to use stainless steel like me.  

2. Chop carrots and onions.  When the beef is done throw the beef and carrots in with the water.  Add the beer, slowly, reverently pouring it down the side of the pot.   As it flows out of the bottle, sing the Gloria in your best angelic voice.  This is essential for continued success.  May I suggest you use the setting arranged by William Byrd?  Of course, my dream kitchen would be outfitted with a choir loft and a full-time, three voice choir, but, believe it or not, that hasn’t happened for me…yet.  Alternatively, one may want to always have among one’s dinner guests someone with a fine voice.

3. In the same pan that the beef was in, put some more oil, and fry the chopped onions for a few minutes (not too long), making sure to shake them around plenty.  Then throw them in your pot as well.  Go ahead and throw your bay leaf and rosemary in there, too.  Salt and pepper.  Bring it all back to a boil, then turn the heat down to low.

4. Pit your prunes and cut them up into little pieces.  Add these last, once everything else is comfortably simmering and you’ve turned the heat down.

5. Simmer covered for an hour or so, until the meat is tender; also, you shouldn’t have any little bits of prunes left, they should have all melted. 

5 1/2. I almost forgot: Before serving, take out the bay leaf and rosemary.  If you don’t,  I’m not liable if someone chokes and dies.

6. Serve it up on top of potato pancakes or mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  With the meal, either finish off the six-pack of Extra Stout (if you haven’t already) or have the draft cans available, according to your preference.  Make sure you pour them into the appropriate glassware, if you don’t the food will taste awful.  Don’t touch the draft bottles, either, they will ruin everything.

Serves 4-8 depending on a) how hungry you are; b) how many potatoes you eat with it; c) how many Guinnesses you drank while cooking.

Let me know what you think.


  1. Love your mission statement.
    As a Lutheran of Irish heritage…both good beer drinking pedigrees, I highly recommend Cook’s Illustrated’s Guiness Stew. Even good in a crock pot, after you brown the meat. Hands down my family’s favorite, from the picky 6 year old to the picky 56 year old. I stew it with carrots and parsnips–the 6 year old just thinks of it as “white carrots.” Technically, that’s actually true. They give a subtle, complex sweetness to the dish.
    In a pinch, Nutbrown Ale is also acceptable.


  2. Splendid. It varies slightly from my own stew which incorporates the potatoes, roughly chopped, into the stew itself. I generally use beef because it’s cheaper and more readily available than lamb, but I refuse to make a shepherds pie without lamb.

    You really must make it up for my annual St. Patty’s Day party. We only serve Guiness for drinking and everything is accompanied by generous portions of Irish Soda Bread. The meal varies year to year but is always ethnically appropriate; shepherds pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, steamed salmon, cabbage, etc…


  3. Betsy,
    Thank you. I’ll have to try parsnips next time. I too use a nutbrown sometimes in cooking, usually Newcastle.

    I would love to come to your St. Patty’s day party some time. My (other) brother-in-law and sister-in-law also have one every year. I will be making the above mentioned stew for that. However, I am planning a trip to Mpls. sometime this year, probably in the fall. Maybe we could meet up at Brit’s Pub or something.


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