Beef + Ale Pie

beef & guinness pie 8

-27 with the windchill in Calgary today, not making it feel at all like spring as we approach daylight savings time and spring break. But! We’re taking comfort in the fact that new microbreweries are popping up all over the place, one just a couple blocks from our house, and that lagers, stouts and ales are perfect for simmering with beef to make the ultimate cold-weather comfort food: beer and ale pie under a puff pastry lid. This is what parka season is all about – warming yourself from the inside out.

beef & guinness pie 1

To make a beef and ale – or Guinness – pie, start by braising the beef with onions, your choice of brew, stock and a pinch or sprig of thyme – I like to add a glug of Worcestershire and a spoonful of tomato paste or puree as well, and a shake of flour to thicken the lot. (A note on browning beef with flour: most recipes call for you to douse the beef chunks in flour before browning, but I find that it then browns the flour rather than the beef itself. My preferred method is to brown the meat, then shake the flour over the pieces and stir them around to coat in the pot. It totally works.)

beef & guinness pie 2

When I make stews and meat pies I generally the beef first because it needs a long, slow braise – if you add the carrots (and any other veg you want to add) toward the end of the cooking time, they won’t turn to mush. Or if you happen to have some leftover roasted or steamed veg, you could just stir them in at the end, as they’re already cooked. (I switched pots here for a better photo, but you can do it all in one. Enamel-coated cast iron is made for stovetop-to-oven dishes like this.)

beef & guinness pie 3

I learned the aged white cheddar trick from J.O. – grating a chunk over the filling before topping with the lid is optional, and will disappear visually from the finished pie, but adds a flavour that’s fantastic. You could even do the filling ahead of time, then top it with pastry and bake when you’re ready.

beef & guinness pie 5

Or top it with mashed potatoes, if you like – but I find it hard to resist an excuse to use frozen puff pastry. (If you want to make your own, you could do a quick rough puff – a streamlined version of the real thing that tastes amazing and looks just as good as the real thing.)

beef & guinness pie 6

And that’s it – serve it with peas, and mash if you like. How to turn every home into a pub.

Beef + Ale Pie


March 8, 2017


2 1/2 lb stewing beef, cut into 1-2-inch pieces

salt and freshly ground pepper

olive oil or bacon fat

1 large purple onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 bottle or can dark ale or stout

1 cup beef or chicken stock (plus extra if needed)

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 large carrot, diced

1 cup grated extra old white cheddar (optional)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, lightly beaten


1Preheat the oven to 325F.

2Pat your beef dry with paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set an oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil or dab of bacon fat, and brown the meat in batches, transferring to a plate as you go. Add extra oil in between if the pan needs it.

3Once the meat is browned, add the onions to the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring to loosen any browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Return the beef to the pan, add the garlic and shake over the flour, stirring to coat everything well. Add enough stout and stock to just barely cover the meat. (If not, add a little more stout, stock or even water.) Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce along with a couple sprigs of thyme (or pull off the leaves and add them to the pot), cover and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

4Remove the pot from the oven, stir in the carrots and return to the oven for another hour, or until the meat is very tender. Remove from the oven and turn the heat up to 400F. If you like, scrape the meat mixture into another baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out about 1/4-inch thick, making it slightly larger than the size or diameter of your baking dish. If you’re going to drape the pastry over the edges, brush them with beaten egg. Drape the pastry overtop, sealing it around the edge of the pan. (Alternatively - if there’s too much space between the top of the meat and the top of the pan - tuck the edge of the pastry haphazardly down around the edge inside the pan.) Brush the top with beaten egg and if you like, score the top lightly with a sharp knife.

5Return to the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden. Serves 6.


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14 comments on “Beef + Ale Pie

  1. Karen Klementis
    March 9, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I am looking forward to making the Beef and Ale Pie recipe Julie. Of all the recipe books I own, yours are by far the ones most ear marked with added notes of recipes I have made and enjoyed. I will be making this for St. Paddy’s Day and can’t wait to enjoy it. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Julie
      March 13, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Wow, you totally just made my day Karen!

  2. Heather
    March 9, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I’m a calgarian now living in Argentina and we are heading into fall as you jump into spring… today is particularly grey and gloomy here and this is exactly what I want for dinner! Thanks!


  3. Kelsey
    March 10, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    This sounds incredible! We have had more winter weather than usual this month and this recipe sounds like the perfect comfort food to match!

  4. Ashleigh
    March 12, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    I just pulled this out of the oven to put the puff pastry on and it smells AMAZING! I had to braise a lot longer than the directions indicated to get the liquid reduced enough, but I had originally planned to pop the puff pastry on a few hours after it had finished and return it to the oven, so it all worked out in the end! I added peas before putting the pastry on as well. I can’t wait to use the leftover sheet of puff pastry for your slab apple pie!

    • Julie
      March 13, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Good to hear!

  5. Deb Hatton
    March 14, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    😮 DROOL. The hubby is a bit of a micro-brew “connoisseur” so we will likely experiment with a few different kinds of ales. Is there one you’ve found works best or mostly just up to taste?

    • Julie
      March 16, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Nope, to be honest I haven’t found any that really stand out against the others!

  6. Jessica Maheu
    March 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Looking forward to trying this tomorrow! It looks delicious.:). I have to say that you’ve really knocked it out of the ballpark with your new cookbook Out Of The Orchard. It’s full of delicious, easy and crowd-pleasing recipes. I’ve made muffins, baked Brie, salmon, pork tenderloin, quinoa salad, tourtière, chutney, cherry cheesecake, and a few more! They’ve all been delicious.? I own a couple other ones of yours and they’re awesome too but this is my fave. Thanks for making it look like I can actually cook!?

    • Julie
      March 17, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Wow Jessica! You totally made my day! That’s so awesome to hear!

  7. Christine
    March 16, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    I decided to make an early St. Paddy’s dinner after I saw your recipe today….. hats off to you again! Its a keeper!

    • Julie
      March 17, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Aw, so glad you liked it!

  8. Linda
    March 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Absolutely love this recipe. I’ve made it twice now. Added mushrooms this last time. It has now replaced my classic recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Julie
      April 2, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      Mushrooms! Yes. Yum.

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