Stout may be an acquired taste but this smooth drink is worth trying

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Next Thursday the 7th of November is International Stout Day.

As with wine, where vineyards tell the story of the people, the weather, the land and its history, beer, too, tells a story of the land, of the people and the brewers.

Porters, a dark ale favoured among London’s working classes, was first developed in the early 1700s. Street and river porters provided an eager market for this new, energizing beer. After the fourteenth century the word stout became associated with adjectives like strong and was used to describe potent beers, such as the Porter. “Stout” as in stout porter, was the strong, dark brew London’s brewers developed and the dark beer that gave us what we think of today as the typical stout style.

The first stouts were produced in the 1730s. The Russian Imperial Stout was inspired by brewers back in the 1800’s to win over the Russian Czar. “Imperial porter” came before “imperial stout” and the earliest noted use of “Imperial” to describe a beer comes from an edition of the Caledonian Mercury of February 1821, when a coffeehouse in Edinburgh was advertising “Edinburgh Ales, London Double Brown Stout and Imperial Porter, well worth the attention of Families”.

Guinness has been brewing porters since about 1780 and is famous for their Dry or Irish Stout. Oatmeal stout beer is one of the more sweeter and smoother of the stouts. And for proof that we live in an evolving society, there’s Oyster Stout and Chocolate Stout

. The first known use of oysters as part of the brewing process of this product was in 1929 in New Zealand. Even now in New Zealand stout is prescribed by doctors to aid recovery.

In Northern Ireland we have around 24 craft brewers now, compared to 10 years ago when there were only a handful. At this year’s Great Taste Awards in London the Golden Fork for best food and drink from Northern Ireland went to Whitewater Brewery’s Kreme dela Kremlin Imperial Russian Stout. Whitewater is based in Castlewellan in County Down and they’ve been brewing since 1996.

The stout is made using a selection of malts, hops and maple syrup and aged in whisky casks. Lacada Brewery in Portrush won three gold stars at the Great Taste Awards for their Utopia Stout. They also produce a dulse stout which is magical and well worth sussing out. While stout is a tasty drink, it also makes a great ingredient. My first recipe is for a stout mustard. Making mustard isn’t complicated – just soaked and blended seeds, but there is something satisfying about making your own. This mustard is perfect with a grilled steak or if you spoon some into grated cheese you’re well on the way to creating the ultimate cheese on toast.

Beef and stout are a tried and tested combination and my second recipe includes them in a pie. No pastry here though – just beef and stout cooked with vegetables, topped with a creamy parsnip mash and baked until golden and crisp. Perfect comfort food for a chilly day. Stout and desserts probably don’t seem like an obvious choice but my last recipe is for a stout and treacle cake – treacle, syrup, spices and stout baked together is a real treat. Serve warm with cream.

Stout might be an acquired taste but this silky, smooth drink is well worth trying. We’re blessed with great brewers here who deserve our support and a glass a day might just keep the doctor away.