Black stuff revival

Stout, once the bulk of London’s 18th century beer production, is making a comeback.

Do you remember when Whitbread, Truman’s and Manns were independent and advertised their stouts on the then new-fangled commercial TV channel? Those days have gone but the dense black beer is showing signs of new growth.

Stout was born out of Porter, which got its name from its popularity among London’s street-market workers in the 18th century. Strengths ranged from four to eight per cent. The stronger ones were referred to as stout porter.

Over time, the double name was dropped leaving two separate beers. Porter is made with dark malts, and stouts using roasted barley, producing a sharper flavour.

Vast quantities were exported to Ireland, which inspired a Dublin brewer called Arthur Guinness to make his own stout (1759), including the essential roasted barley in the mash.

World War One restrictions on barley stopped UK stout brewing, but production continued in Ireland. After World War Two, UK brewing revived to a modest level.

Now a growing number of new or refreshed stout brands are being created by established brewers and craft breweries needing to offer more distinctive speciality beers.

Waitrose, for example, stocks three well-established brands: Murphy’s Irish Stout, Mackeson Stout (a post-war Whitbread brand) and Guinness, correctly classified as a ‘stout’ but universally referred to as just Guinness as if it were totally unique.

At the top of the strength tree at 10 per cent a.b.v, Courage Imperial Russian Stout is now made by Wells & Young’s, Bedford with intensely aromatic roasted barley, dense dark colour and a generous creamy head.

In 2011, the independent Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, Yorks, created a new IRS 8.5 per cent limited edition which has proved popular enough to become a year-round brew. Best sourced from the Sheepy Shop (01765 680 101/

The Hop Back Brewery, Wiltshire, best known for its Summer Lightning draught ale, brews Entire Stout year-round, 4.5 per cent, dark, strong roasted malt, chocolate, coffee and hoppy flavour.

Fuller’s long established brewery in Chiswick offer their Black Cab Stout, and the Meantime brewery (Greenwich) have their Meantime London Stout.

Stout is renowned for going well with oysters and several oyster stouts are produced which include local oysters in the mash such as Whitstable Oyster Stout brewed by Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent and Oystermouth by the Mumbles Brewery, Glamorgan.

Mersea Island Brewery, Essex, created a new recipe for theirs using a lot of oats plus dark malts and local oysters, and I like to think the oyster content is discernable!

London Boat Show

Delicious craft gins at the boat show

In the aisles where ropes and chandlery were grouped I found the Rose Cottage Liqueurs stand a welcome and refreshing oasis. Unashamedly riding on the back of the current gin bonanza, this craft operation makes a range of gin blended with semi-exotic fruit cordials.

The resultant 22 per cent strength qualifies them as liqueurs but not the typical oily drinks the name may bring to mind. Those at the show were fresh and tangy: elderflower (my preference), rhubarb and rose haw, plum and pear and pomegranate, in boat-friendly sculptor’s mallet-shaped bottles.

A sipping drink neat, or mix for a spritzer 50:50 with Prosecco, tonic, soda or water. Mainly marketed at shows and country fairs or available through

This year’s show seemed to be awash with Prosecco as the ubiquitous choice for promotional hospitality.

But the diYachting charter company impressed by thoughtfully selecting I-heart sauvignon blanc wine to go with their Mediterranean-style snacks. Nice wine choice by nice people with a new thoughtful angle on boat ownership and holidays.