Beer and Food Matching: Winter Warmers

Related tags Porter Stout

AS AUTUMN starts to bite, we've asked our panel to think of meal matches for porter, the classic dark London beer, currently seeing something of a...

AS AUTUMN starts to bite, we've asked our panel to think of meal matches for porter, the classic dark London beer, currently seeing something of a revival after decades of neglect. The brew is closely associated with this time of year, and would traditionally have accompanied the pies, stews and broths the capital's market porters relied on to fend off the chill of a November morning. So how did our experts do?

John Keeling, head brewer, Fuller'​s: One word - oysters. And of course chocolate pudding! The roasted coffee notes in Fuller's London Porter really bring out the flavour in a chocolatey pudding and the beer acts as a great palate cleanser.

Ben Bartlett, catering development manager, Marston's Pub Company​: Porter is a dark beer generally brewed with dark malts. The strongest versions were known as stout porter, reduced over the years to simply stout. In Victorian times stout and oysters were consumed by the working classes, though some beers had oysters and their shells added during the fermentation process until as recently as the 1960s. Marston's Oyster Stout is dark brown and tastes like wholemeal bread with Cornish butter. It reminds you of the Yorkshire Dales and roaring fires. It's not a summer drink and should be served in a glass with a handle.

Phil Vickery, chef & broadcaster: Porter is really an acquired taste, but works well with rich foods, sweet and savoury. From rich venison stew flavoured with red wine, cured bacon chunks and chestnuts, to lightly braised hare and porter. Some people will quite happily drink porter with oysters, while others like to serve a half or two with Christmas pudding.

  • For Phil's own Christmas and winter puddings, check out

Rupert Ponsonby, Beer Academy​: Defining porters as stouts with less roasted character and maybe lower ABV, my favourite porter combination would be porter and oysters with a lump of soda bread and unsalted butter - a phenomenal and historic combo.

The soda bread is the creamy bridge between the beer and the oysters. Just find a seaside eaterie and dream. But make sure that your porter has no coffee notes to it, or it will taste discordant and yuk. Battersea Brewery Power Station Porter would be good. The porter needs to taste of soft, creamy barley to make this work, though a dry, salty edge to the beer can also help.

Porter is great with venison or spicy stews as it has the body and the same intensity of flavor that most good beer and food matches need. Meantime's Porter would be great in its fancy 75cl bottle.

Puddings are also a natural partner for porter. Christmas pudding and porter is one of my faves - the bigger the porter the better and Fuller's London hits the spot. Pair coffee-flavoured porters with puddings such as tiramisu or coffee crème brulée. If you like chocolate, look no further than pairing softer porters with chocolate puds with drippy, hot, stick-your-finger-in-them centres. Indulgent beers for indulgent foods.

Paul Drye, catering development manager, St Austell Brewery​: As porter was the staple diet of the porters in London's docks as far back as the 1750s, I think it should be recognised as an important part of the industrial revolution - up there with Brunel, Stephenson's Rocket and the Spinning Jenny. I'm sure jellied eels and pie and mash would have been eaten in great quantities, but I'm going to recommend smoked fish and meats.

Try serving slivers of smoked venison with a redcurrant jelly. Or smoked eel on blinis with soured cream mixed with a little horseradish. Serve with small 175ml glasses of Meantime London Porter. This has caramely smokiness that harmonises beautifully with little oak-smoked morsels. However, if you're a bit more down to earth there's nothing wrong with a good smoked bacon butty.

And the house recommends…

John Porter, pub food editor​: My dad always reckoned our family name reflected an ancestor in the brewing game, although to be fair, it could also simply mean that my great-grandad drove a cart. Whether as brewers or merely as drinkers, the Porters have frequented London's pubs for centuries, and porter as a beer is a great match for the old family recipe for sausage pie. Minced pork offcuts, potato, onion and a pinch of sage in shortcrust pastry, washed down with a pint of cool, dark beer. It gets no better...

Next month: What's fabulous with fruit beer?

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