This beef and ale stew is what I would call a truly good stew. For me, a stew needs to be comforting, delicious, and nutritious, and above all it needs to be an inexpensive, yet enjoyable dinner.
In fact, a pot of good stew actually makes me nostalgic. Stew is the perfect family dinner, a one pot meal that can cook away in the oven as you go about your daily tasks.
The aroma of this beef and ale stew will fill your kitchen and welcome you home to a fantastic meal for all the family to share.
Table of Contents
- Hearty Stews
- Ale Stew Is Comfort Food At Its Finest
- Ingredients for Ale and Beef Stew
- Tips for Ingredient Substitutions
- Choosing An Ale For Stew
- Directions for Beef and Beer Stew
- Prepare the Beef
- Add Vegetables and Broth
- Slow Cooking Is Best
- Serving Irish Ale Stew
- Storing and Saving Stews
- Recipe Card for Irish Beef and Ale Stew
A hearty stew is hard to beat when it comes to homely, warming, winter dinners. This rich beef stew will warm the cockles of the heart on chilly winter evenings.
Why is beer or ale used in stews? Beer brings out the rich flavors of the meat and vegetables. As the liquid simmers the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind complex flavors to enrich the stew broth.
You know I love a good stew. I previously shared my farmhouse beef stew and my Irish sausage stew, known as Dublin Coddle. But today, let's mix it up a little bit by making a stew with a little beer or ale.
Ale Stew Is Comfort Food At Its Finest
Irish people love to share and make memories over a simple bowl of stew. But, what is an Irish stew?
There are many stew and casserole recipes used throughout the Emerald Isle. One pot cooking was a favorite in rural Irish kitchens in days gone by.
Stewing is a very old and dependable method of cooking meats. The cauldron or bastible was hung over the open fire in Irish kitchens and was the predominant cooking tool for most Irish people.
A traditional Irish stew is not made with beef. Instead lamb or mutton is combined with onions, potatoes, and root vegetables in a rich broth.
Today's recipe is an Irish recipe for an ale and beef stew. Similar stews are served throughout the British Isles. Most Irish stews are made with simple and cheap ingredients, and today's recipe is no exception.
This Irish beer beef stew is a superbly flavorful and robust stew that's perfect served with crusty bread.
Ingredients for Ale and Beef Stew
Here's a quick list of ingredients. You'll find exact quantities required in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Stewing beef: There's no need for an expensive cut of beef for this family meal. Stew meat is inexpensive and tougher than steak. It's a collection of beef cuts with tougher connective tissue such as beef chuck or round. However, when braised and simmered in stock the tougher connective tissue breaks down so that the meat becomes tender and easy to eat. The beef should be cut into pieces - about one inch cubes.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is used to thicken the stew.
- Olive Oil: This is used to sauté the beef and vegetables prior to adding the stock and ale.
- Onions: Regular yellow onions work great in this stew. Inexpensive ingredients are best.
- Garlic: You can peel and mince your own cloves of garlic. Alternatively, you can use jarred minced garlic in oil.
- Carrots: Peel and dice the carrots for this stew. You can cut them into chunks or smaller, depending on your own preference.
- Celery: The celery is washed and chopped into bite size pieces.
- Fresh thyme: Sprigs of thyme are added to the broth for flavor and removed before serving.
- Bay leaves: Dried bay leaves add lots of flavor to the broth, and are also removed before serving.
- Tomato paste: I like to use tomato paste or purée to add intense flavor to the broth, rather than adding a tin of tomatoes, which are not a traditional ingredient in Irish stews.
- Beef broth: I like the flavor beef stock or broth adds to this stew rather than using just plain water.
- Ale or beer: Use a pale ale or golden beer rather than a porter, such as Guinness.
- Salt and pepper: Season this stew to taste.
- Brown sugar: I know sugar seems counterintuitive in a stew recipe. I only use a tiny amount but it takes away any bitterness from the ale.
Tips for Ingredient Substitutions
If you would like a milder onion flavor in your stew, then you could use leeks instead of the onions. Shallots are also a delicious substitute for the onions.
Rosemary is a wonderful herb to liven up a beef stew. You could use it instead of the thyme. If you don't have any fresh herbs at hand you can just pop in some dried herbs of your choice such as rosemary, thyme or oregano.
To make a gluten free version of this stew, simply substitute a gluten free flour for the plain flour that's used to thicken the stew.
Remember, the alcohol in the ale will cook off so there will only be flavor left behind. It's fine to serve this stew to all the family, even little ones.
If you prefer not to use any alcohol in your cooking, you can simply add a tin of puréed tomatoes and a little water instead of the ale.
Choosing An Ale For Stew
You may be wondering which beer is best for beef stew. There are many makes and brands of beer or ale that you can choose for this recipe. A red ale or pale golden ale both work just fine.
Lighter ales such as pale ale, amber, or light brown ale will compliment beef broth beautifully. I would avoid India Pale Ales since they are very hoppy and bitter. Even a little brown sugar won't be able to cover up this hoppy flavor, which only intensifies with cooking time.
If you wish to choose an Irish brand of beer or ale, here are some of my favorite brands.
- Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale: This is a red ale, boasting a smooth, caramel flavor.
- Harp: This is a light and hoppy pale Irish lager.
- Conways Irish Ale: This is made by an American brewing company, based in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Smithwicks: This is a red ale, that has been made in County Kilkenny for centuries.
- O'Haras: This brand is made by a relatively new brewing company from County Carlow.
Directions for Beef and Beer Stew
Here you'll find step-by-step photographic instructions for making this delicious stew. Check out the recipe card at the end of this post for nutritional information.
Prepare the Beef
The stew is first prepared on the stovetop, before transferring it to to the oven to cook low and slow over a few hours.
Remember to turn the oven on to preheat to 325° Fahrenheit while you prepare the beef and vegetables.
A big pot that can be transferred to the oven is perfect for this stew. I love to use my Dutch oven for this recipe.
Add olive oil to the bottom of the pot and heat it over medium high heat. Add half of the meat pieces and brown on all sides.
It's important to brown the beef in batches so that every piece can be exposed to the surface of the pan and sealed to retain its flavors.
Set the first batch aside on a plate, while you brown the remaining meat. Then, return all of the meat to the pot.
Add Vegetables and Broth
Toss in the chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, carrots and celery on top of the beef.
Cook the meat and vegetables over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
Now it's time to add the flour, which will act as your thickening agent as the stew cooks.
Add the flour to the pot and toss all the beef pieces and veggies to coat them in flour.
Next, it's time to make the broth.
Add the tomato paste and ale to the pot and stir well.
Add the beef broth, thyme sprigs and season with freshly ground black pepper. Mix the stew at this point, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Slow Cooking Is Best
Since this stew is made with tough cuts of beef, slow cooking is best.
I like to transfer this stew to the oven for low heat, prolonged cooking to tenderize the beef.
Put the lid on the stew pot and transfer it from the stovetop to the oven.
You can leave it and forget it for 3 hours if you need to go out and about.
However, if I am home I like to give it a stir every 30 minutes to an hour to prevent sticking.
If the stew looks like it's losing too much liquid while cooking in the oven, top it up with some extra beef broth.
Serving Irish Ale Stew
I like to serve my stew in bowls that have been warmed in the oven. Don't overheat the bowls, just let them sit in the hot oven for a few minutes so that they are warm to the touch.
Be sure to remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, before ladeling this stew into your warm soup bowls.
This stew does not contain any potatoes.
I like to serve this stew with crusty white bread, or Irish brown bread.
Storing and Saving Stews
If you have any leftovers you can store this stew in the fridge. Simply, transfer the remaining stew to a plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
It's best to get it into the fridge within two hours of cooking, so let it cool in the pot before putting it into the refrigerator.
When I have room in my refrigerator I place the whole pot with the lid on onto the fridge shelf, once it has cooled enough.
This stew will stay good in the refrigerator for around three days. Simply, reheat the stew in individual servings in a bowl in the microwave. Alternatively, you can reheat all of the leftovers together in a pot on the stovetop.
Freezing this stew will extend its shelf life up to 3 months. Since it does not contain potatoes, which go mushy when frozen, this stew keeps well in the freezer.
To avoid the formation of ice crystals that can discolor the top of the stew, transfer the stew to freezer bags and press out any excess air before sealing.
If you are using a freezer proof container, simply place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the upper surface of the stew to protect it from air.
Cool your stew to room temperature before placing it in the freezer, remembering not to leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Recipe Card for Irish Beef and Ale Stew
Here's the printable recipe card for your kicthen files.
Beef and Ale Stew
- 2 pounds stewing beef cut in 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 bay leaves dried
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery washed and sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup ale Irish pale ale
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 sprigs thyme fresh
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Add the oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven and heat over medium high heat. Add half of the meat pieces and brown on all sides. Remove from the casserole and set aside on a plate. Brown the remaining meat, then return all of the meat to the pot.
- Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, carrots and celery. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the flour to the pot and mix everything together to coat in flour. Add the tomato paste and ale and stir thoroughly. Add the beef broth, thyme sprigs and season with freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Put the lid on the pot and transfer to the oven for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to prevent sticking. Top up with extra beef broth if the stew looks like it is drying out. Ten minutes before the end of cooking time, add the brown sugar and stir through the broth. Season to taste.
- Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves before serving in warm bowls with crusty bread.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
I hope you enjoy this stew with subtle beer tones, that's hearty and filling, especially on winter days.
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Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade