Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Braise Beef Short Ribs with Pumpkin Ale and Turn a Pumpkin into a Party Keg via Cleo Coyle

Pumpkin Ale. It sounds like a trendy invention, doesn't it? As if craft beer makers became jealous of all the attention paid to pumpkin spice lattes. But pumpkin ale has been a tradition in America since early colonial times. The reason?

Pumpkin Ale is older than the
United States. Colonial brewmasters
used pumpkin out of necessity. 
Pumpkins were native to the New World. Malt was not. Because malt was more difficult to obtain, early American brewmasters turned to pumpkin as the go-to sugar to ferment into beer, at least until the 1600s, when barley malt became more plentiful.

Our modern-day brewmasters have rediscovered this colonial concept and you can now find several nationally distributed pumpkin ales, as well as many fine local pumpkin brews. 

Ale vs. Beer

Ale is a little different than beer. It tends to have more complexity and depth of flavor and the alcohol content is usually higher. 

Good pumpkin ale uses roasted malts and real pumpkin meat (sometimes roasted) for a complex caramel flavor that is quite distinctive.

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Shipyard Pumpkinhead are two examples of nationally-distributed brands that use pumpkin in their ale-making process. 

Pumpkinhead is on the lighter, crisper side. But Marc and I prefer the more amber, richer flavors in the Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin, and we also think it works best in the recipe we're sharing with you today. More on that below.

In the meantime, if you're game (and we don't blame you if you're not)! Here's an interesting way to serve pumpkin ale for a fall party. Click the arrow in the window below to see the how-to video. If you do not see a window, click here to view the video on YouTube...

How to turn a pumpkin 

into a party keg


To view on YouTube, click here.

A quick note on the question of temperature: 

While lagers are best served cold, ale is often enjoyed
at room temperature, which makes a pumpkin keg
a nice idea, adding extra fall flavor to your pour.

And now for today's recipe...


Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.

Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.
Cleo Coyle's
Beef Short Ribs
Braised with 

Pumpkin Ale

Braised beef is a fantastic fall dish. The long stretch in the oven dispels the autumn chill, and the results are rich, savory, and satisfying. 

While beef can be braised in water, stock, or wine, Marc and I decided to use pumpkin ale as our liquid base, adding spices that echo those used by the brewmaster (nutmeg, ginger, and allspice). 

The ale and spices beautifully complement the rich taste of the beef ribs. Red potatoes and baby carrots evoke the colors of autumn, and the onions and honey lend sweetness, which is needed to balance out the base notes in the ale.

Marc and I always say that if something is worth drinking, it’s worth cooking with too, so in the "spirits" of the fall season, we give you this recipetruly a dish of bliss. 

May you eat with autumnal joy! 

~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Click here for
the recipe PDF.

Makes about 6 Servings


3 to 3-1/2 pounds beef short ribs

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 and 1/2 bottles (12-ounce bottles) of pumpkin ale (see note below*)
4 Tablespoons honey

3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or coarse sea salt)

1 pound baby carrots

1-1/2 pounds onions, peeled (we suggest small whole onions)

2-1/2 pounds potatoes (we suggest small red potatoes, keeping

         the skins on, which makes for nice color and presentation)

A bit of extra salt and ground pepper for Step 1

*Pumpkin ale note: Use 2 and 1/2 bottles for this recipe and, yes, we suggest you sip that extra half-bottle as you make it! As far as the type of pumpkin ale, look for an amber/brown ale with rich flavor notes. You'll also want an ale that includes real pumpkin in the brewing (and not just pumpkin flavor). For an east-to-find national brand that has both of these characteristics, try Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, that's what we used in today's recipe.


Step 1 - Brown the meat: Preheat oven to 350° F. Salt and pepper the raw beef short ribs. 

Place a large skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat and warm the olive oil. When oil is very hot, add ribs fat side down. Be careful not to crowd the pan. If your skillet is not large enough, brown in batches. Make sure to sear every side of the rib; the more you brown now the more flavor you’ll have later.

When all the short ribs are browned, 
remove them from the pan and set them aside. 

Step 2 - Sauté the vegetables: Drain the fat from the pan, holding back a few tablespoons for flavor. Toss in the (peeled) garlic and onions, as well as the carrots and potatoes. Sauté the vegetables, stirring gently over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes. You are not cooking them, you are simply getting some of that flavorful fat on the them and allowing the outsides to lightly brown. Remove the vegetables from the heat and set aside.

Step 3 - Make the pumpkin ale braising broth: Place a large (6 to 7 quart) Dutch oven pot over medium heat, combine the pumpkin ale, honey, peppercorns, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Step 4 – Begin the cooking: Add the browned short ribs to the simmering broth in the Dutch oven pot. Pour the veggies on top. 

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place
in preheated 350° F. oven for 1 hour. 

Step 5 – Remove the cooked vegetables: After 1 hour, remove the pot from the oven and check the vegetables for doneness. If they are cooked through, remove them to prevent them from over-cooking and becoming mushy. If the vegetables are not yet cooked through (potatoes are still hard/appley in the center), continue cooking for another 15 minutes and check again. When the vegetables are done, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the Dutch oven pot and set them aside.

Step 6 – Finish the short ribs: Re-cover the pot and return it to the oven for another 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The ribs are done when the meat is buttery tender and practically falling off the bone. Just before the ribs are finished, place the vegetables back in the pot, cover with the lid, and re-warm them in the oven for 10 minutes or so.

Serve: We use the hot broth in the pot like a French au jus. To plate, place ribs in a shallow bowl with a serving of vegetables and spoon the flavorful broth over the ribs. 
Use crusty bread to sop up the juicy goodness.

Another plating idea: While Marc and I like a rustic presentation, a fine dining restaurant would more likely present these short ribs on a bed of something (say, mashed parsnips and root vegetables or couscous). We prefer something more comforting and colorful. Try mashing or puréeing a mess of sweet potatoes (you can even mix them with a little roasted pumpkin). Add cream, butter, and gently stir a small amount of the same spices you used in the braising recipes. Now that's eating with fall harvest joy!

To download this recipe
as a PDF document,

click here.


Pumpkin Season!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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  1. I love short ribs. And pumpkin ale? Brilliant idea.
    My husband's favorite is Dogfish Head pumpkin, so I may try it with that.
    But it will undoubtedly be delicious. Many thanks

  2. What a beautiful and interesting post, Cleo! I love the gorgeous blue baker/casserole dish too.



  3. When do we eat...? :)

  4. fantastic Cleo! Those are so mouthwatering--and imagine how good the house smells while they are cooking...

  5. This looks delicious, I can already taste it :) Thanks Cleo for another wonderful recipe.

  6. Oh, yum! I love food like this on cold winter days. So homey. The ultimate comfort food, and I know your kitchen smelled heavenly!