Black, opaque and deeply malty, porters and stouts aren’t exactly entry-level beers. But, once you’ve adjusted your palate to take these traditional brews, they can be matched with food that’s equally robust.
Let’s talk porters and stouts
Romanticised as a working class brew with origins in 18th century London, porter is said to be named after the traders and labourers who enjoyed it as a cheap and nourishing beverage. A stout porter grew from this with the strongest beer in a brewery known as the ‘stoutest’. Shortened over the years, stouts are now in a league of their own and represented worldwide by that most famous of stouts – Guinness.
Stout is known for its malty flavour, roasted scent, chocolate, coffee and creamy notes, and unique texture; malts can feel thicker in the mouth than other beers and sometimes boast a velvety head. They come in various styles; milk stout is sweeter due to the lactose powder added during brewing, while oatmeal has a silky texture.
Porter is often lighter in weight and has a crisper finish than stout, but still carries warm caramel and molasses notes.
Match porter with…
Meantime Brewery interprets the classic dark beer style in various different brews, but its chocolate porter hints at one of the drinks keynotes. Here, they add real chocolate during maturation. Whether you can get your hands on a chocolate porter, or a regular version, it teams perfectly with chocolate puddings. Melting-middle fondants provide a rich chocolate hit, while this chocolate, hazelnut and salted caramel tart will match porter’s rich toffee and nut notes.
Back when they were plentiful and cheap, now-luxurious oysters were served in piles alongside beer. In fact, beef, oyster and porter pie was a traditional Victorian dish. Open oysters using a shucking knife and a deft technique then serve straight from the shell. We like ours with a squeeze of lemon and just a hint of Tabasco sauce.
Garrett Oliver from New York’s Brooklyn Brewery loves traditional British porters with food. He says the style carries a lot of ‘roast’ to pick up charred flavours from grilled or barbecued meat. Heat your griddle until searing hot, then griddle a beef steak until criss-crossed with caramelised charred stripes. The sweet taste and bitter blackened burnt parts of chargrilled vegetables work as well as beef, pork or chicken, should you be catering for the less carnivorous.
Match stout with…
As with porter, stout is a great earthy accompaniment to oysters served on the half shell. However, this also applies to other shellfish, particularly when it comes to Irish stout, which accentuates what Garrett Oliver calls the ‘sea sweetness’ of calamari, clams or scallops. No shellfish is sweeter than delicate crab; try and get hold of a whole fresh crab and boil it in stock. Picking it apart may take some time and expert hammer skills, but it’ll make the brown and white meat all the more satisfying. Serve it potted, in a light mayonnaise or a light green salad.
Meantime match their vanilla and coffee-tinged stout with seasonal fruity desserts. Try robust fruit puds that can handle the sharp hit of stout; these blackberry custard tarts have a hint of vanilla to accentuate the subtleties of a sweeter stout. The buttery icing sugar topping of these fig tartlets will pair well with a caramel-spiked stout, while the fruit will contrast nicely. Stout matches just as well as porter with chocolate, so a rich cocoa-based pudding with added spiced fruit covers all bases.
Meantime like to pair the richness of game meat with that of a stout. Often game is served in a sweet sauce that accentuates the lighter notes of the drink. Venison has a silky rich quality that makes an ideal match with a sweet and nutty stout. Try out rabbit, grouse and pheasant, too.
Do you have a favourite pairing? Let us know in the comments below.