Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: English stouts

Further to my recent comments on Guinness and other Irish stouts, this blog would be failing in its public service remit if it didn't point out that there are plenty of good English stouts and porters available.

It's a matter that's been on mind of late following conversations with an Irish friend of mine in London, who isn't overly keen on English beers (I attribute this to an under-educated palate, but that's a matter for elsewhere) but who is keen to try something beyond the sometimes indifferently served Guinness you can get anywhere.

I suggested that he should try some English stouts and, noble and dedicated soul that I am, I've been researching the matter. One might, for instance, try the Titanic Brewery's stout (drink enough and you won't even notice the iceberg) or Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout (generally I can't abide that brewery's products, but I am happy to make an exception in this case).

Today, however, I came across something particularly fine. To aid my recovery from a stint of work over Easter, this afternoon I enjoyed a couple of pints of the Meantime Brewery's London Stout in the Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead. (Incidentally, I hope those of you have ordinary jobs enjoyed your return to work today, you were certainly in my thoughts as I sipped this smooth and zesty little stout) and I can say with confidence that the world is better place as a result. You can also find the stout in the pubs listed here.

The same brewery produces a stronger London Porter, a bottle of which I will be shortly enjoying. To be frank, I've never fully understood the distinction between stout and porter – they're both dark beers and they both taste pretty good – nor did I particularly care. However, Camra's website suggests that porter is simply a stronger version of stout, which acquired its name due its popularity among London's market traders. Wise old birds, those market traders.

In any case this porter is a serious drink. A couple of glasses of the stuff will soothe any cares you may have, revive the tiredest of bodies or minds and brings light into the darkest places of the soul. You will feel invulnerable, well able to take on whatever the world and its less congenial inhabitants might throw at you. It is, besides, excellent with oysters; a combination that will put lead into the most feeble of pencils. Take a glass at breakfast time if you have a day of waged drudgery ahead of you.

There is, however, one stout which is even better than these. It defies superlatives and any praise would seems overly effusive. And yet, once you taste Adnams Oyster Stout you will realise quickly the inadequacies of language. It my seem heretical – treasonous even, if you are Irish – but it is the sine qua non of stouts, the music of the spheres, the drink for which the gods themselves envy mankind. It's only available until the end of the month, so I urge you to do whatever is necessary to find some before then.

I've quoted this poem before, but since Dante never wrote about stout, only Flann O'Brien can possibly do this drink justice.

In time of trouble and lousey strife
You still have got a darlint plan

You still can turn to a brighter life -

A pint of plain is your only man.



Blogger Nick said...

Which all rather begs the question - what is the best oyster bar in London?

12:10 am  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Why the end of this month? There's an 'r' in the next one, too...


10:15 am  
Blogger Quink said...

Where are they selling it?

10:18 am  
Blogger bill said...

Puss, that's all part of the mystique, it's only available in February and March so you have to make a particular effort.

Quink, not sure where it's on sale right now, only a select few pubs and drinkers are let in on the secret. Perhaps if you try loitering under a hawthorn bush in Hyde Park whistling an old Scots air all will be revealed. (The last place I tasted some in is now shut; try Suffolk).

Nick, no idea frankly. Oysters are best when you can see the sea, but I'm happy to hear any suggestions as to where to eat them in the metrop.

12:12 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

Well done, William, I was reading through that and was just making up a comment to the effect that you had omitted the finest of them all, care of Adnams,...but reading on, of course you hadn't. Of course.

That great pub in Bexleyheath has already sold out this year's allowance, alas, so there is no reason whatsoever to enter "London's Garden Borough".

And ne'r mind the Metrop, get on the c2c to Leigh-on-Sea for oysters near town (though the ones I had at Monkey Chews in NW5 were fine enough a couple of years back)

12:36 pm  

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