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Friday, February 27, 2009

Doc Alworth's Healthful Olde-Time Nutritional Stout Tonic and Flu Virus Remedy

A hundred years ago, milk stouts were regarded as nutritional. This was no doubt the function of a clever ad campaign by Mackeson, but it worked. Much like Americans now dose themselves with echinacea, in pre-war England they prescribed a glass of stout. I have attempted to revive the practice under the theory that if I'm going to get a placebo effect, it might as well come from stout.

In my basement is a slightly failed homebrew that strikes me, in my addled delirium, as something like a perfect health tonic. It's a stout of reasonable heft (export stout strength) with a couple ounces of Dagoba chocolate and one and a half chipotles. The failure came with the chipotles, which contributed WAY more fire than they were intended.* My goal was to extract almost no fire but a bit of the smoke. I wanted a stout with a flavor complexity drinkers would be hard pressed to identify; I ended up, more or less, unintentionally making Roots Habanero Stout.

But I may be onto something. Stouts, as we've established, are healthful. Chilis are loaded with Vitamins, B, C and carotene. They reduce pain, fight cancer, and lower cholesterol and insulin levels. And very recent findings show that theobromine in chocolate is more effective than codeine at relieving coughs (also tastier--but less fun). I believe two bottles of this beer might be more effective than a mug of echinecea or a slug of NyQuil.

I will test the hypothesis and complete this post on the morrow with my findings.


The morrow.
One program note: I couldn't drink two beers, and the one hit me, as Sally sometimes says, like a mallet to the head. Today I awoke with a cheese grater lodged in my throat. The trajectory is downward, as precipitously as the economy's. Would the descent have been sharper still had I skipped the stout? Surely. This is damn little consolation.

Back to bed.

*This is odd, because I was extremely conservative in my use. I purchased both the little black/red chipotles (morita), which are sweeter but less smoky, and the larger, spicier, smokier brown ones (tipico) I tested them out by steeping in water to determine quality and then decided to try one of each. I cut them in half, removed the seeds, and used only half the brown pepper. I prepped them by scorching in a skillet until the oils were roused, and then soaking in hot (not boiling) water for a half hour. Only then did I add them to the carboy just one day before bottling. Ah, the best laid plans.


  1. you might try absinthe, head that works ;)

  2. Hmmmmm.... Chocolate vs. Codeine? Well.... Chocolate for a cough is interesting, but for pain.... Better give me the codeine.... and a beer!

    Codeine probably upsets Jeff's little tum tum..... ;-}

  3. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: chipotle is Spanish for, "Crap! We burned the chiles! Oh, heck, just feed it to the gringos."

    Remember, the bigger the jalapeno the less the heat, so don't use the weensy ones for your 'chipoodling'.

  4. Not to be a devils advocate, but I'm so good at it....

    according to Wikipedia:

    "A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeño chili used primarily in Mexican, Mexican-American, Tex-Mex, and Mexican-inspired cuisine.


    Typically, a grower will pass through a jalapeño field multiple times, picking the best green jalapeños for market. At the end of the growing season, jalapeños naturally begin to turn red. There is an extensive fresh market for red jalapeños in both Mexico and the United States. Many U.S. growers disk the red jalapeños into the ground. They are kept on the vine as long as possible. When the jalapeños are deep red and have lost much of their moisture, they are selected to be made into chipotles.

    The red jalapeños are moved to a closed smoking chamber where they are spread out on metal grills. Wood is placed in a firebox, and the smoke enters the sealed chamber. Every few hours the jalapeños are stirred to improve smoke penetration. The chiles are smoked for several days until most of the moisture is removed. At the end of the process, the chipotles have dried up in a manner akin to prunes or raisins. The underlying heat of the jalapeños is combined with the taste of smoke. Typically ten pounds of jalapeños make one pound of chipotle."

    Sounds like a lot of working picking the BEST Jalapanos from the field and all that careful drying time and care.... just for the Gringos..... ;-}

  5. But Mary Sue, I am a gringo. I think the chili experiments are over. I'll try something else for my smokifying in the future.

  6. Hey Jeff.. hope you get well soon. Just take it easy.

    Glad to have found your site. I look forward to diving into the archives.

  7. I'm just nearing the end of The World Cold Ever™ (10 days and counting); my cough has been at its worst for the past 4-5 days (though was probably worse a couple days ago), and the dextromethorphan hydrobromide has done virtually nothing. I just decided to pop a square of Ghirardelli's 86% Cacao "Midnight Reverie™" that I had laying around… not much improvement either - the scratchiness in the back of the throat continues unabated. Still, I got some chocolate out of the deal, so that's a plus…

    …or at least it would be were it not for The Worst Symptom of The Worst Cold Ever™… I've completely lost my olfactory senses. I can't smell anything, and of course I can barely taste - which for someone who lives on the consumption of all things tasty is nearly a self-inflicted death sentence. It took me a couple days to realize why I could barely eat anything when my appetite seemed barely affected by this virus… it was when I realized I couldn't taste garlic that I knew something was wrong and that my life was likely over should this prove permanent.

    However, this has provided me the opportunity to test my impaired beer tasting abilities… on a recent trip to the County Cork, I sampled the following:

    Russian River's Pliny the Younger - can still make out the bitter from the hops, is still too much for me, and really can't distinguish between this and the Elder.
    Russian River's Consecration - reminiscent of a cross between Deschutes' Dissident and Hair of the Dog's Rose Cassis; I don't know what subtleties I was missing out on here, but I absolutely loved what I could taste… given the familiar underpinnings I derived, that should be a foregone conclusion.
    Murphy's Irish Stout - is there something in this glass?
    Russian River's Damnation - a (new) old favorite of mine; sadly I could not very well distinguish its yeasty qualities and was left with a fairly bland liquid. Perhaps this shouldn't have followed Consecration.

    Also, the Scotch Egg was still fairly tasty, and the buffalo hot wings were very vinegary… I've never liked sour hot sauce, and under these conditions, I like it even less.