The complex flavor of dark stout beer makes this beef variation of the Lancashire hot pot stew a comforting winter meal.
Stouts are my favorite kind of beer. They range from dark brown to black in color and typically taste of roasted grains, coffee, and chocolate. They have a complex and intriguing flavor that is perfect for winter and pairing with warm, deep flavored dishes.
DARK BEERS ARE NOT ALWAYS HEAVY
A misconception that I often hear is that stouts are heavy beers. People assume that the dark color means more calories and higher alcohol. But in many cases, it can be the opposite. A stout can have fewer calories and a lower alcohol level than your favorite IPA. In reality, it’s the alcohol level that dictates the number of calories in a beer. As with any beer, there is a range of flavors that are often determined by the ingredients and methods used in the brewing process.
Yet, the confusion is understandable. The term stout was originally applied to any style of beer that was brewed strong. In theory, there could have been a stout pale ale at one point in time. Obviously, that terminology changed since it was first applied to beer in the 1600s. However, it was the stout porter, or strong porter beer, that became known simply as a stout over time.
STOUTS VS PORTER
Today, though, the difference between a stout and a porter is debatable. There are porters stronger than stouts that are still considered porters. I haven’t heard a terribly clear differentiation, and for that reason, it would only be fair of me to say that I enjoy porters as much as stouts.
Varieties of stouts include milk stout, dry stout, chocolate stout, oatmeal stout, imperial stout, and oyster stout. Each has an interesting history and flavor. The dry, or Irish stout, is the most well-known thanks to Guinness. As the name suggests, dry stouts have a drier taste than others, which might be surprising because when we think of a pint of Guinness, we think of the creamy head that appears upon pouring. But that’s due to the addition of nitrogen, added from a propellent when poured from a keg or a widget that is now added to cans.
Naturally, I love to use stouts in winter cooking. When it comes to cooking with alcohol, whether it’s beer, wine, or liquor, the most important rule is only using what you would want to drink. You want to like the flavor because as it cooks and reduces, the flavor intensifies. The strength of the alcohol decreases, but its flavor notes increase. This is especially true when the alcohol cooks for a long period of time, such as in a stew. A good stout adds complexity and depth, which is what I love about the beer in the first place, and I can think of no better place to use stout than in a slow cooking stew.
WHAT IS THE ENGLISH (LANCASHIRE) HOT POT?
This is essentially a beef stew made with stout. It’s called a hot pot because it is topped with a layer of potato slices, which is how the popular English dish, the Lancashire Hot Pot, is prepared. Lancashire is a northwestern county of England, where I spent a few months while in college. The hot pot was the first meal I had after arriving and being invited to a nearby community dinner. I had never heard of the hot pot but was happy for a free meal when still adjusting to my new home for the semester.
Lancashire hot pot is typically made with lamb and a variety of vegetables. While this hot pot is slightly different from the Lancashire, where the liquid is usually just broth, the concept is the same. There’s meat, vegetables, a potato topping, and it’s baked in a large pot in the oven. The stout just adds an extra layer of flavor that makes a simple stew just more interesting.Print