The Black Stuff

Stout, or The Black Stuff, has been closely associated with Ireland for decades with its most popular variety, Guinness, ranking high as Ireland’s most famous export.

Porter was first recorded as being made and sold in London in the 1730s. It became very popular in Great Britain and Ireland, and was responsible for the trend toward large regional breweries with tied pubs. With the advent of pale ale, however, the popularity of dark beers decreased, apart from Ireland where the breweries of Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish grew in size with international interest in Irish (or dry) stout.

Nourishing and ‘sweet milk’ stouts became popular in Great Britain in the years following the Second World War, though their popularity declined towards the end of the 20th century – apart from pockets of local interest, such as Glasgow with Sweetheart Stout, and Jamaica with Dragon Stout.

Originally, the adjective ‘stout’ meant ‘proud’ or ‘brave’, but later, after the fourteenth century, ‘stout’ came to mean ‘strong’. The first known use of the word stout about beer was in a document dated 1677 found in the Egerton Manuscript, the sense being that a stout beer was a strong beer.

The expression stout porter was applied during the 1700s to strong versions of porter, and was used by Guinness of Ireland in 1820 – although Guinness had been brewing porters since about 1780, having originally been an ale brewer from its foundation in 1759.

‘Stout’ still meant only ‘strong’ and it could be related to any kind of beer, as long as it was strong: in the UK it was possible to find ‘stout pale ale’, for example. Later, ‘stout’ was eventually to be associated only with porter, becoming a synonym of The Black Stuff. During the end of the nineteenth century, stout porter gained the reputation of being a healthy strengthening drink and was used by nursing mothers and athletes.

In Ireland, blood donors and post operative patients are still given Guinness due to its high iron content.