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A little Guinness goes a long way in stew

Dark Irish Guinness Draught is a perfect match for hearty beef stew as long as you don’t add too much beer. Dark brown sugar balances the bitterness of the beer and adds hints of molasses. For an extra touch of green for St. Patrick’s Day, sprinkle fresh parsley on top. (Adriana Janovich)
Dark Irish Guinness Draught is a perfect match for hearty beef stew as long as you don’t add too much beer. Dark brown sugar balances the bitterness of the beer and adds hints of molasses. For an extra touch of green for St. Patrick’s Day, sprinkle fresh parsley on top. (Adriana Janovich)

You don’t need the luck of the Irish – just their beer – to make a robust beef stew.

Guinness Beef Stew from “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2014” combines the iconic Irish stout with a simple mix of boneless beef chuck-eye, potatoes and carrots.

The recipe blends the dark and velvety Guinness Draught with brown sugar, balancing the bitter taste of the roasted barley with notes of molasses. A little tomato paste deepens its color and adds an undercurrent of tanginess.

The overall flavor is complex, but the method for this hearty stew is simple. There’s no searing the meat in messy batches.

After browning onions and combining garlic, beer and beef in a pot on the stovetop, you transfer the container to the oven for an hour and a half, stirring once at the halfway point, but otherwise forgetting about it until it’s time to add potatoes and carrots. This happens more than halfway through the entire process, ensuring that the vegetables don’t become overcooked and mushy.

At the end, top off the thick mixture with a little more Guinness and a sprinkling of fresh, minced parsley.

But resist the temptation to pour in more beer. Instead, drink it while you wait for the stew to cook or use it to wash down the glorious winter warmer. Better yet, save it for dessert: Guinness floats, Guinness milkshakes, Guinness chocolate mousse or Guinness tiramisu, anyone?

Adding more beer doesn’t give the stew more of a beer taste; instead, it increases the bitterness.

The test cooks and taste-testers at America’s Test Kitchen had figured this out. “I thought more beer would give me more potent beer flavor,” Sarah Gabriel wrote of her recipe development. “Bad move – 50 percent more beer just made the stew 50 more bitter.”

Still, I like beer. And I like Guinness. So even though I read her remarks, I thought, “How bad could more beer really be?” I added extra beer to my second batch. But, just as Gabriel wrote, more beer equaled more bitter. I scrambled to recalibrate, adding more brown sugar and tomato paste to try to reconcile the flavor.

On its own, Guinness – deep brown with a dense, creamy head created by thousands of tiny nitrogen bubbles – carries hints of caramel and coffee. And it’s surprisingly low in calories – 125 per 12-ounce serving compared to 148 for Boddington’s Ale, 150 for Newcastle Brown Ale or Smithwick’s, and 162 for George Killian’s Irish Red.

The first shipment of Guinness didn’t arrive in America until 1840. But brewing began in Ireland nearly 100 years earlier. Arthur Guinness established his brewery in Dublin in 1759. Today, Guinness accounts for nearly a third of all beer sold in Ireland and is available in more than 150 countries.

Originally, Irish stew didn’t contain beer or beef. Purists believe true Irish stew is made from neck mutton chops, potatoes, onion, water or stock, salt and pepper – and nothing else. Others accept additions of carrots, turnips and barley.

Mutton was a main ingredient because of economics: Sheep were important for milk and wool production. Older animals – sheep that were no longer economically viable and required hours of simmering – ended up in the pot, traditionally cooked over a hearth.

By comparison, the America’s Test Kitchen Guinness and beef version sounds positively gourmet.

Guinness Beef Stew

From “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2014.”

Use Guinness Draught, not Guinness Extra Stout, which is too bitter.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at seams, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped fine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups Guinness Draught

1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste and garlic and cook until rust-colored and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in broth, 3/4 cup Guinness, sugar and thyme, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in beef and return to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 90 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.

Stir in potatoes and carrots and continue cooking until beef and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour, stirring halfway through cooking. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup Guinness and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves: 6 to 8

Guinness Float

2 scoops vanilla, chocolate, caramel, coffee or mint chocolate chip ice cream

1 can Guinness Draught, chilled

Scoop ice cream into a frosted mug or sundae glass, then slowly pour Guinness over the top. Serve with a spoon and a straw.

Note: Optional garnishes for the float (above) and milk shake (below) include whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg, chocolate sprinkles or chocolate shavings, and chocolate or caramel sauce.

For additional flavor – and booze – blend an ounce or two of Baileys Irish Cream with vanilla ice cream before scooping it into the frosted glass. Or whip an ounce or two of Baileys Irish Cream into heavy whipping cream until it forms soft peaks and use the mixture to top the float.

Guinness Milkshake

In John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel “Cannery Row,” a loner biologist named Doc loves beer so much that one of his friends jokes that he would order a beer milkshake.

“He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. … It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer.”

Doc eventually tries one at an out-of-town diner, “and it wasn’t so bad – it just tasted like stale beer and milk.”

In this version, the rich, creamy sweetness of the ice cream complements the bitterness of the beer, making for a thick and flavorful dessert.

3/4 to 1 cup Guinness Draught, chilled

1 pint premium chocolate, vanilla or coffee ice cream

Slowly pour beer into blender container. Scoop in ice cream. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Pour into glasses.

Serves: 2

Guinness Chocolate Mousse


For mousse:

8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or grated

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup superfine sugar

3/4 cup Guinness stout

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

3 tablespoon sugar

1 cup heavy cream

For topping:

2 tablespoon Irish whiskey

3 tablespoon sugar

1 cup heavy cream

For mousse: In a double boiler or a bowl set above a simmering pan of water, combine chocolate, butter and sugar, and stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in Guinness and whisk in egg yolks. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then fold into chocolate mixture. Clean beaters, and beat egg whites in a clean bowl with mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture. Fill 8 wine glasses or parfaits or dessert cups with mixture, leaving room for whipped cream. Refrigerate, until ready to serve.

For topping: Combine whiskey and sugar in a bowl, stir to begin dissolving sugar. Add cream and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Spoon topping over refrigerated mousse and serve.

Note: This dessert contains raw or undercooked eggs. The Food and Drug Administration advises that eating raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

Guinness Tiramisu, or Beeramisu


Calling for beer and Baileys Irish Cream, this take on tiramisu strays far from the traditional. It’s also super-easy to prepare. The malty, roasted, bitter notes of the beer balance the sweetness of the mascarpone. A night in the refrigerator to set the ladyfingers before serving is essential.

1 pound mascarpone, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream, divided

8 ounces Guinness

36 ladyfingers

Small bar good-quality chocolate, for shaving

Combine mascarpone and sugar in a medium bowl, stir vigorously to dissolve sugar. Place whipping cream and 2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone.

Pour Guinness into a shallow bowl. One at a time, dip ladyfingers into Guinness on each side. Don’t soak them: counting to one on each side will provide all the stout flavor and moisture you’ll need. Place in a tight single layer in a 9-x9-inch dish, breaking them into pieces as necessary. Drizzle 1/4 cup Irish Cream over entire layer. Pour about 1 to 2 cups of the mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers until covered, spreading smooth with a spatula. Grate a layer of chocolate shavings over the top with a microplane or a vegetable peeler.

Repeat process with another layer. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight before serving.