Ale and Stout

Canadians love their beer — and we in the prairies are particularly lucky to have close access to some of the best barley in the world. And lucky us — not only is it great for drinking, it’s excellent for cooking.

Brews of all kinds add a nutty, hoppy, caramel-like flavour to a wide variety of dishes, and though cooking is a perfect solution for opened bottles that have been neglected and gone flat, its carbonation can provide added lift to quick breads and sweet or savoury baking powder-leavened baked goods. It makes a fantastic cooking medium for long-simmered beef or pork stews or braises (for tacos!), or can be used to poach fish and steam mussels and clams. Beer batters provide a light, crisp coating for fish, onion rings, even Mars bars: whisk together equal parts seasoned flour (I use salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika —unless you’re frying something sweet) and beer. And for a sort of stiff version of Welsh rarebit, blitz random cheese ends in the food processor with a pour of beer, enough to make it spreadable, and serve on toast or with crackers. For dessert, beer lends wonderfully complex caramel notes to buttercream frosting, ice cream, dense cakes (chocolate is fantastic), puddings and sauces.

Spring tends to bring a flurry of Guinness-inspired dishes around St Patrick’s Day, but stouts aren’t the only option in the kitchen — they all have their place. Deciding what kind of beer to cook with is a lot like choosing which to drink; darker stouts are far more robust and will add a darker colour and deeper flavour to whatever it is you’re making. Pilsners and pale ales are far less bold and might be better suited to light batters and steamed seafood, or for a quick pan sauce like you might otherwise make with a splash of wine. Expect the tartness of sours and bitterness of hops to come through in whatever it is you’re cooking, though many flavour nuances may be lost in long-simmered stews and braises. (And yes, nonalcoholic beers are just fine.) Just make sure the ale you use in the kitchen is something you also like to drink —chances are you’ll be the one to finish the bottle.

In our Ale and Stout series Julie makes Welsh Rarebit and Braised Beef and Ale Stew.

Sticky Guinness Toffee Puddings

Beer and caramel are a match made in culinary heaven — and dark stout adds a particularly robust flavour.
Servings 12
Author Julie Van Rosendaal


  • 1 cup chopped, pitted dates (250 ml)
  • 1 1/4 cups Guinness or other stout (300 ml)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (5 ml)
  • 1 ripe banana (80 ml)
  • 1/3 cup softened butter (80 ml)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (250 ml)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (5 ml)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (400 ml)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (5 ml)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1.25 ml)

Sticky Toffee Sauce

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (250 ml)
  • 1/4 cup Guinness or other stout (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup butter (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup Roger's Golden Syrup or maple syrup (60 ml)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1.25 ml)
  • whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F.)
  • In a small saucepan, bring the dates to a simmer with the stout. Cook for a few minutes, until the dates are very soft, then remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. (It will get foamy.) Pour into a bowl, squish in the banana and roughly mash with a potato masher or a fork.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until sandy; add the eggs and vanilla and beat for a few minutes, until pale and light.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the dry ingredients and stir (or beat on low) just until blended. Stir in the date mixture, and then the remaining dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  • Pour the batter into a well greased Bundt pan or divide between 12 greased (not paper-lined) muffin tins.
  • Bake for 30 (for muffins) to 45 minutes (Bundt), or until deep golden and springy to the touch. Let cool slightly on a wire rack, and invert onto a plate while still warm.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

  • Bring the brown sugar, Guinness, cream, butter, syrup and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking until well-blended and smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool slightly — the sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve individual akes or wedges drenched with toffee sauce, with whipped cream or ice cream.