Beef Carbonnade Paired with Belgian Ale

Hello my libation-loving friends. Long time no blogged. If you're not a personal friend of mine, you probably don't know that I up and moved to Reno, NV. Yep, Andrew and I had about enough of Las Vegas and decided it was time for a new adventure. Of course, we couldn't have waited until AFTER our wedding, but that's how life works, right? We decided to have a new house, new city, new jobs, new marriage, new new new everything all within two months. I have been in Reno a week now, and already am at a noticeable peace with myself. Even though initially moving 8 hours away from home was ridiculously stressful, I have found in this last week, even with unpacking, starting my new job, having the in-laws in town, and not knowing what the hell I got myself into, that I am relaxed, I am happy, and I am calm. It is a feeling I haven't experienced in over 3 years--since Andrew and I started dating, in fact. So although my mind keeps asking "why again did we move to Reno?", my heart reassures me that although I don't know why it was the right decision, it was the right decision regardless.

So, lets get back to the blog now, shall we? With all this Reno talk, I must say there is one bittersweet thing I'm missing already--the Vegas weather. Reno is not bad, I PROMISE! Its actually beautiful out right now, I have the windows open (its a good 65 out right now). However, Reno is a mountain town. It gets COLD here at night (like, in the low 20's...lots colder than Vegas ever gets). So even though its March, I'm actually getting my first taste of winter.

The Recipe

So I was horribly unsurprised when I started craving this hearty dish from my favorite cookbook, The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan. Seriously, go buy it. I have made this dish four times now (which could be considered a record for me repeating ANY recipe). This dish is simple and prepares like a stew, but without all the carrots and potatoes and stuff. In fact, all it has really is caramelized onions and beer. Doesn't that just sound amazing?! Trust me, my amateur-photography photos do no justice. Willan suggested serving it with Braised Red Cabbage and I couldn't agree more. Besides making the dish beautifully vibrant, it adds a harmonious sweetness to the beef. The dish is hearty, warming, and can be made ahead of time if you are entertaining some friends. If you can, save some for leftovers--this dish is even better the 2nd or 3rd day after the flavors have had time to meld together.

The Pairing

As with all recipes that call for beer or wine in the cooking, you should choose the same or similar beer to pair with it. However, this is not a set-in-stone rule. This dish calls for a full 750ml of beer (the same size as a standard bottle of wine). That's a lot of beer! Pick a dark or heavy Belgian-style ale such as a dubbel, Belgian Golden Strong or Dark Strong. These beers will have good maltiness, sweetness, and fruitiness that we're looking for in the dish. Stay away from Tripels since they could be too hoppy and overpower the caramelized onions.

Pair this dish with the same Belgian Ales as mentioned above. After all, this dish has its origins in that part of the world, so we might as well pay tribute! The great thing with Belgian Ales is that most of them have some level of sweetness, which will pair great with the sweetness in this dish. I tried both Red Chimay (Dubbel) and Blue Chimay (Belgian Dark Strong) with the Carbonnade and, although both were good in their own way, Andrew and I both preferred the blue. A dish like this needs a boozy (+7% abv if possible), malty, heavy beer to stand up to it. An easy rule of thumb is to make sure whatever beer you choose is dark. Again, stay away from hoppy beers like Tripels that will counteract the sweetness in the onions.

If you don't have access to Belgian Ales, or just want to try something different, a dark, malty robust porter would go great with this too. Choose a beer with chocolate notes and you won't be disappointed.

Pairing Suggestions

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

  • Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue)
  • Gouden Carolus Grand Cru of the Emporer
  • Rochefort 8 or 10
  • Gulden Draak

Belgian Dubbel

  • Chimay Premier (Red)
  • Westmalle Dubbel
  • La Trappe Dubbel

American Abbey Ale

  • New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale
  • North Coast Brother Thelonious
  • Unibroue Maudite

Wine Pairing

  • this truly is a dish meant for beer, but if you have a guest coming over that will only have wine, choose an off-dry Riesling (QbA or Kabinett would be fine)


Beef Carbonnade 

Author: Dani (

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 3 hours

Total time: 3 hours 30 mins

Serves: 4-6 servings

Recipe adapted from Anne Willan's "The Country Cooking of France" Cookbook


  • 2 lbs boneless chuck/stew beef
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 large Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 3 Cups/750ml Dark Beer
  • 1 Cup Beef Broth
  • 1/2 tsp grated Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (or a few sprigs of fresh)
  • 1/2 baguette of bread (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Hot Dijon Mustard (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Trim any excess fat from the beef and cut into 2-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat butter and 1 Tbsp of oil in a large dutch oven over high heat. Place half of the beef cubes in the pot and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside; brown the remaining beef and set aside also.
  3. Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to the pan with the onions. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Reduce heat to low and cook until the onions are very soft, stirring often. This should take about 20 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and add the sugar. Continue frying until the onions are carmelized but not burnt, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the beer and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  5. Stir in the broth, nutmeg, parsley and thyme. Return the beef to the pan stir well. Bring back to a boil.
  6. Cover the dutch oven and cook in the oven until the beef is very tender, about 2 or 2.5 hours. Check the beef every 30 minutes and stir, adding any more broth if it gets too dry. At the end of cooking, the sauce should be very thick and concentrated.
  7. The dish may be cooled and stored in the refrigerator at this point for later use. To finish, simply reheat on the stove top (a longer reheating under low heat will yield the best result).
  8. Serve with toasted slices of baguette with dijon mustard if desired.

Happy Pairing!