Brewing beer at home is a challenging undertaking, as there are about a thousand things that can go wrong. Although the basic steps seem relatively straightforward, each requires your full attention, careful timing, exact measurements, proper temperature control and sterilized equipment. My sister and I began the process in mid-September and watched carefully as the beer changed color one day at a time. A month proved too long for us (and our impatient, alcoholic friends) to wait for the Ahearn sisters’ first brew, so we tapped the first bottle, with great expectations. Each of us took a sip, equally dismayed by the lack of carbonation. Could it be remedied? We had only waited 7 days for the beer to carbonate, instead of the recommended 10-30. That night we were hosting a dinner party and hoping to serve our homemade brew, and it turned out our friends were far less discriminating than we were. They plowed through about 35 mason jars filled with under-carbonated amber ale, and I used the remaining five to braise beef short ribs. Next time, we’ll get it right.
Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs (serves four)
8 beef short ribs (usually four to a rack)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 6 peppercorns, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary)
1 pint amber ale
1 small container veal demi glaze
2 tablespoons cold butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
In a large stockpot, heat olive oil at medium-high heat. Sear one rack at a time until browned on both sides. Reserve, pour off grease. Add onions, carrots, celery and a bit of salt. Sautee until they begin to caramelize. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the beer, bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the demi glaze, bouquet garni and the ribs. Add cold water to the pot until the ribs are just barely covered. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover with foil, leaving a tiny corner open. Let cook for two hours, being careful to baste any exposed meat. Once the meat is falling off the bone, remove the ribs, separate them with a sharp knife and set aside. Pour the remaining sauce through a china cap or a strainer into another stockpot, making sure to squeeze the liquid out of the vegetables. Place the new pot back on the stove, turn the heat way up and reduce the stock until it resembles a sauce. Season to taste, stir in the butter and pour the sauce over the ribs. Serve.