Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 13 Stouts

27 04 2010

Before we get into the style of stouts, first a little history of the word “stout.” Most people’s first experience with the word “stout” comes from this song. When we think of the word “stout,” we think of “heft, thickness, and bulk.” As is the first definition according to But the word, as it was originally used, means “strength and boldness.” This definition is less popular these days. So while the original use of the name “stout” meant strength, people now think of it as meaning a “thick beer.” For the vast amount of beers that are known as “stout”, this creates a false impression that these beers are thick or high in calories. In reality, a Guinness has just about as many calories as a Budweiser or even a can of Coca-Cola. It is the creamy mouthfeel that gives the impression that the beer is thick.

While porters became popular among the British working class in the 1700’s, a darker and richer version also began picking up strength. The first use of the word “stout” in reference to a beer was in the lat 17th century. In this case, “stout” referred to any strong ale, usually in 7-8% ABV. But when porters grew in popularity and potency, “stout porters” became a very popular subsection of the style. When Arthur Guinness began brewing his beer, the name “Stout Porter” was on the label. It remained there until the 1970’s. Some older Irish men will still refer to Guinness as “stout porter.” And their even stronger, export quality, stout porter was referred to as “extra stout” a name that still remains on the label today.

Around the mid-19th century, stout became recognizable as its own style. Brewers would often brew richer, darker versions with higher alcohol in order to have it travel well. Queen Katherine of the Russian Imperial Court enjoyed stout so much, she asked for a shipment to be delivered to her personally. Knowing that beer travels better with higher alcohol and hops levels, a bigger batch was brewed for Her Highness–and thus the birth of the Russian Imperial Stout.

During WWII, when food was rationed, brewers attempted to embolden their beers with nonfermentable sugars in order to boost caloric intake of the British people. They added dried milk and oatmeal. The result is a creamy, silky, smooth beer that is rich in body and flavor.

As the British colonies spread throughout the 19th Century, so did its beer. In African and Caribbean colonies, extra stout became very popular. And to this day, the largest drinkers of Guinness Extra Stout and Foreign Stout are in West Africa and the Caribbean. It is hard to believe that stout would be very appetizing in such warm climates but many beer enthusiasts swear that the Guinness is just as refreshing in Jamaica as it is in Ireland.

Of course, as Americans got their hands on stouts, they boosted the key characteristics of the style. The pumped up the smokey and chocolate notes and gave rich, earthy hops an opportunity shine. While traditional Irish stouts are meant to be session beers, where one can drink several in one sitting. Americans have turned stouts into bold signature pieces that push the envelope and linger on the palate.

Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 13- Stouts

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

Subcategories: Dry, Sweet (Milk), Oatmeal, American, Russian Imperial

Aroma: All stouts will have smokey, chocolatey, and coffee-like notes. However, they all vary in strength according to style. Dry Stouts will have slight cocoa and coffee notes while the Export-style Stouts will have rich burnt characters with complex fruitiness ranging from purple fruits to herbs and spices including anise, licorice and smoke. Hop aroma will be slight but earthy with notes of moss, soil, and cedar. Very clean nose. No Diacetyl.

Appearance: Very Dark. Ranging from jet black with no highlights to dark brown with rich, red highlights. Head will range from bright, off-white to mocha brown. Often, stouts are served under nitrogen and will produce a cascade effect on the head where the bubbles will literally float down the side of the glass and then rise back up to form the head. Head is strong and persistent with excellent lacing.

Flavor: Malt forward with some acidic coffee bittersweet notes. A touch of smoke or chocolate is common. Styles will grow in complexity with the overall strength. Exports will echo aroma with complex, rich fruit notes and spices. Some overt sweetness may be present. Oatmeal stouts may have a bit of graininess resembling oatmeal. A very clean and dry palate on the back end. Exports should also have some alcohol present. Hops should be balancing and earthy with a certain amount of brightness. English hops should be used although Continental Noble Hops are appropriate as well.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied to full bodied. Rich, creamy and viscous are all appropriate qualities. Should be incredibly smooth and the dark malts may add a certain amount of astringency. Body is dependent on original gravity and some smaller beers may be lighter in body. Very light in carbonation, which should all be centralized in the head.

Ingredients: Dark malts, including a judicial use of Black Patent Malt. Unmalted grains can help with body and head retention. Some non-fermentable adjuncts can be used in sweet stouts (particularly milk and oatmeal) to add body. Water should be hard and rich in minerals. English and Continental hops and a strong ale yeast strain. Occasionally, oysters can be added to imbue a sweet, salty note.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
Final Gravity: 1.007-1.035
IBUs: 20-90
SRM (Malt Color): 22-40
ABV: 4-12%

Commercial Examples:
Dry Stout: Guinness Draught Stout (also canned), Murphy’s Stout, Beamish Stout, O’Hara’s Celtic Stout, Russian River O.V.L. Stout, Three Floyd’s Black Sun Stout, Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, Orkney Dragonhead Stout, Old Dominion Stout, Goose Island Dublin Stout, Brooklyn Dry Stout
Sweet Stout: Mackeson’s XXX Stout, Watney’s Cream Stout, Farson’s Lacto Stout, St. Peter’s Cream Stout, Marston’s Oyster Stout, Sheaf Stout, Hitachino Nest Sweet Stout (Lacto), Samuel Adams Cream Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout, Widmer Snowplow Milk Stout
Oatmeal Stout: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Young’s Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Oatmeal Stout, Maclay’s Oat Malt Stout, Broughton Kinmount Willie Oatmeal Stout, Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Troegs Oatmeal Stout, New Holland The Poet, Goose Island Oatmeal Stout, Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout
Foreign Extra Stout: Tropical-Type: Lion Stout (Sri Lanka), Dragon Stout (Jamaica), ABC Stout (Singapore), Royal Extra “The Lion Stout” (Trinidad), Jamaica Stout (Jamaica), Export-Type: Freeminer Deep Shaft Stout, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (bottled, not sold in the US), Ridgeway of Oxfordshire Foreign Extra Stout, Coopers Best Extra Stout, Elysian Dragonstooth Stout
American Stout: Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout, North Coast Old No. 38, Bar Harbor Cadillac Mountain Stout, Avery Out of Bounds Stout, Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout, Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout
Russian Imperial Stout: Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Bell’s Expedition Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Stone Imperial Stout, Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, Scotch Irish Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night, Deschutes The Abyss, Great Divide Yeti, Southampton Russian Imperial Stout, Rogue Imperial Stout, Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout, Great Lakes Blackout Stout, Avery The Czar, Founders Imperial Stout, Victory Storm King, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout




2 responses

27 04 2010
Tom Winnett

Stout! as a stout person and a lover of the style, I can think of few brews I would rather drink.
As my dear wife might say “never trust a beer light enough to see through”.

27 04 2010

Thanks for the stout info. For me it is all about the mouthfeel. Next time I go out, I am trying the Russian Imperial Stout. I am not sure about Oysters in my stout.

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