In this video, I'll show you how to make a bear stew that uses Belgian beer as one of the primary flavors. It will blow your mind.
The first time I shot a black bear, I was 19 yards away from it standing on the ground. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Later that evening, after we'd skinned and butchered the beautiful beast, I was so amped from the experience that I downed a 22 ounce bottle of dark beer. It had no effect. I simply had too much adrenaline pumping through me to feel the slightest bit buzzed.
But the taste of that beer remains locked in my mind as part of that day. So I wanted to see if I could come up with a hearty stew that married bear and beer in honor of that memory.
I settled on a Cook's Illustrated beef stew recipe as a jumping off point, and through testing a number of different variations, I found some very specific ingredients that dramatically improved the taste of the stew. Pay attention to the type of beer, stock, and mustard that I recommend -- they will make a difference.
And oh how that beer complements the bear meat perfectly! I even made the same recipe with beef to compare the flavor, and there really was no comparison -- the bear imparted flavor a cow could only dream of.
I hope you'll try this recipe (you could always substitute venison for bear, of course). And be sure to serve it with the same beer you cooked with. Cheers!
3-4 lbs black bear meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 Tbsp butter
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ medium shallot, minced
3 Tbsp quinoa flour (all-purpose flour will work, too)
1 ½ cups venison stock (beef stock will work, too) – link to Hank Shaw’s recipe
1 ½ cups Belgian beer (recommended: Brother Thelonious or Chimay Blue Cap)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
2 medium bay leaves
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard (recommended: “Eden Organic Brown Mustard – Stone Ground with Apple Cider Vinegar”)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Dry bear meat with paper towels. Season generously on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat heavy-bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot, then add 3 Tbsp butter. When butter is melted, add first small batch of bear meat (don’t completely cover the bottom with meat). Brown bear meat thoroughly on all sides, using tongs to flip onto uncooked sides, then transfer to a holding plate. Working in small batches and adding more butter as needed, brown the rest of the bear meat.
Once all the bear meat is nicely browned, reduce heat to medium and add 3 Tbsp butter. Add the onions and ½ tsp of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are nicely browned. Add garlic and shallot and cook until you start to smell the garlic, about 30 seconds 1 minute. Add the quinoa flour and stir for about 3 minutes, or until flour starts to brown.
Add the venison stock and deglaze (scrape the bottom of the dutch oven with a wooden or silicon spoon to loosen all the caramelized pieces).
Add the beer, thyme, and bay leaves. Add the browned black bear meat and be sure to pour in any juices that accumulated in the holding plate. Increase heat until stew starts to simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover partially, and cook for 2 ½ hours. Stir in mustard and brown sugar. Continue to cook another ½ hour.
You’ll know it’s done when the bear meat reaches a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Remove thyme and bay leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the same beer you cooked with and enjoy!