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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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About stout

For all those who believe that any style of beer is interchangeable when cooking, here's a tip: Substitute stout for a commercial lager in a batter for onion rings, and taste the difference.

A hint of smokiness in the aroma, rich malt flavor and a dark-brown hue are your clues that stouts do more than add fizz to food.

True to the name, stouts taste robust and hearty, sometimes dry and a bit astringent, or coffee-like, or even sweet, thanks to the enormous variety of dark-roasted malts used in brewing.

"The first stouts brewed in Ireland in the 17th and early 18th centuries were lightly hopped, if at all, due to the cost of imported English hops," says British beer historian Roger Protz.

Though brewers such as Guinness now use American-grown hops, the dryness in stout comes from the almost charcoal intensity of the roasted barley used to make the mash for stout. Fruity or floral notes often stem from the ale yeast used to ferment stout. Stouts have subtle differences in flavor and body, depending on the yeast strain used and the brewing style.

"Irish stouts tend to be drier, a bit more astringent and lower in gravity, so that you can drink more than one pint," says Tim Selewski, head brewer at Royal Oak Brewery in Royal Oak. Gravity is a measure of the malt in beer and thus its alcohol content.

One of the chief styles of stout, called Imperial stout, was brewed originally for export to Russia and later to the Caribbean and tends to be higher in gravity, with a denser body and higher alcohol content. Milk stouts, such as Mackeson's from England or the Michigan-brewed Black Heath Milk Stout from Arbor Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor, are usually lower in alcohol and brewed with about 10 percent lactose or milk sugar for sweetness and a mild body. Even oatmeal can be added to stout, as is the case with New Holland Brewing Co.'s Olde Poet Oatmeal Stout, made in Holland, Mich. The oatmeal adds a smooth, silky body and hint of astringency.

And on St. Patrick's Day, virtually everyone of legal drinking age learns about the drier Irish-style stouts such as Guinness and Murphy's.

NORTH AMERICAN craft brewers have felt free to experiment with inventive styles. One of the more unusual is coffee stout, such as Pyramid Brewing Co. Espresso Stout from Seattle. Think about the tempting aroma of fresh-brewed espresso, with its deep amber crema floating on top -- hence, the appeal of coffee stout with a thick, creamy collar of foam. Though stout traditionally is paired with oysters, few brewers are tempted to match the infamous experiment of California's Marin Brewing Co., which years ago produced an oyster stout brewed with real bivalves for a briny taste.

In Michigan, close to 40 brands of stout are available from the state's craft breweries and brewpubs. Larry Bell of the Kalamazoo Brewing Co. even organized a road trip promoting his 10 varieties, including a full-strength Java Stout. Besides the Cherry Stout, Bell's Stout, Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout, Kalamazoo Brewing plans a Black Rye Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Milk Stout, Spiced Stout and more. On Eccentric Day, the brewery's annual festival, Bell and cohorts cook up an enormous batch of beef stew, liberally seasoned with the stronger Expedition Stout.

THAT'S ALL PART of pub grub tradition. Given that stout, and porter, its predecessor, were among the first ales brewed in the British Isles, there is a long history of using stout in the kitchen. Stout in stews, batters, apple fritters and even cakes is part of the basic publican's menu. Susan Nowak, a British expert on pub cooking with beer, adds, "Stout is delicious with chocolate."

Forthwith, a chocolate pudding worth of St. Patrick's Day:

St. Patrick's Stout Chocolate Pudding

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup cream

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 eggs

2/3 cup Irish stout

Blend the cornstarch and sugar well in a heavy nonstick 1-quart saucepan. Whisk in cream and chopped chocolate. Place over low heat and stir until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and let cool 2 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the stout and eggs together until frothy. Stir the egg-stout mixture into the chocolate cream and place over low heat. Whisk constantly, until pudding thickens. For a perfectly smooth pudding, strain into small ramekins. Let cool to room temperature, then chill. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Excellent with sliced fresh strawberries or raspberries.

Serves 6

Portions of this article appeared in the March 17, 1999 edition of the Detroit Free Press.


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