What is a Stout?

September 2, 2007

Beer Styles

The Stout was traditionally a stronger full-bodied variety of a porter, called a “stout porter” or “stouter”, but soon emerged as its own very popular style.

While the distinction between a stout and porter is still a little confusing, the stout is, generally speaking, a fuller-bodied, stronger, and darker beer with strong coffee or burnt caramel flavors.  Stouts, much like coffee for many folks, is an acquired flavor.  It is a beer to be sipped and savored, not pounded back on a hot summer day.

To speak of “a” stout is not entirely accurate. It is better to refer to the stout family of beers – dry stout, imperial stout, oatmeal stout and sweet stout – each with its own unique history and flavor.

Dry Stout

This is what most people probably think about when they hear the term “stout”, also known as an Irish Stout.  Dry stouts tend to have a higher alcoholic content than the sweet or oatmeal stouts, with a maltier, roasted flavor.  Their distinct flavor comes from using unmalted roasted barley in the brewing process, creating a creamy, roasty flavor with a medium to high hop bitterness and a fruity acidity.  The dry stout tends to be medium bodied with the unique opaque black color of a stout. This is the beer made famous by Guinness and considered more important than water by many Irishman (myself included!).

Sweet Stout

Also referred to as an English stout, or “London style,” the sweet stout is brewed with a chocolate malt, making it less roasty, and accented with strong fruit overtones, especially plum. Once known as “Milk Stout” due to the use of lactose (milk sugar) in the brewing process, the name was changed to sweet stout so as not to imply that actual milk was included in the beer.  The use of milk sugar creates a medium to full bodied beer with a smooth, sweet taste with very little hop bitterness.  Many consider these to be a soothing restorative. Next time you have trouble falling asleep why don’t you try a warm Milk Stout!

Oatmeal stout

This beer, as the name implies, is actually brewed with oatmeal (makes you look at the breakfast mush in a whole new light, eh?).  The oats are added to the barley malt, giving this stout a fuller body and flavor with strong coffee and burnt toffee overtones.  While a few brewers use malted oats in the brewing process, most simply add oatmeal to the mash.  These beers tend to be very smooth with a strong smooth body, but not necessarily a high alcohol content. 

Imperial Stout

mperial stouts were originally brewed for the pre-revolutionary czar of Russia, a huge fan of the English-style stouts.  Since the typical English Stout did not travel well, these beers were loaded with hops in order to last the long trips to Russia (much like the IPA’s that were shipped to India).  Imperial Stouts are by far the strongest of the stout family, distinctly bitter with a burnt malt flavor that goes along with a fruity character that some describe as “burnt currant”.  Also called Russian Stout or Russian Imperial Stout.

Odd Beer Award goes to…..

Oyster Stout

While few breweries concoct this beer these days, there was a time when the Oyster Stout was fairly popular, especially in seafaring port towns.  Some version actually contained raw oysters, but most used oyster exctract.

Second runner up…. Espresso Stout – Most are so named because of the “coffee-ish” character, there are some brewers who are adding crushed espresso beans during the brewing process to enhance the coffee character.

Great Stout Recipe

A buddy of mine in California turned me on to this and I must say it is very good.  All you do is add one shot of Port Wine to a pint of Guiness and enjoy.  Not sure why these flavors go so well together, but boy is it smooth.  Let me know how you like this if you try it.

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