In an article in Look magazine called "Secret of a Good Stew," Elizabeth Alston gave "good-stew tips picked up from masters of the pot and from cooking butchers like the brothers Lobel." Here are a few: The better the meat, the better the stew. Have meat cut in regular chunks for even cooking. Cook slowly; fast broiling toughens meat. Use herbs or spices to accent flavor, not to dominate it. She also included this excellent recipe.
Place the olive oil or bacon drippings in a heavy pot and heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the beef and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary to prevent crowding the pan. As the meat is browned, remove to a platter.
Add the onions to the pot and brown, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the onions with the flour, cook for another 3 minutes, stirring. Gradually add the beer. Reduce heat and cook slowly, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
Make an herb bundle by combining the allspice, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns in a piece of washed cheesecloth, and secure with kitchen twine.
Return the beef to the cooking liquid and add the herb bundle. Simmer for 1 hour, covered, then cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove herb bundle before serving.