What makes a beer a stout?
When we think of creamy, dark, heavy and strong beers, we think of stouts. However not all stouts have these attributes. While many types of stouts are indeed as we have just described, the styles range from being very alcoholic and dry to being hoppy with a lower ABV. So, the question comes to mind: what makes a beer a stout?
As you all know there are different variations of stouts. We’ll go over the most common stouts after we dive into a brief history lesson and answer the big question.
A Little History Lesson: Stout Beer
It is no wonder we think of heavy and strong beers when we think of stouts. The word ‘stout’ itself used to refer to strong beers in the late 1600s to early 1700s. Back then, they were usually called ‘stout porters’, because they just were stronger and full-bodied varieties of porters. Porters were very popular among porters (now you know where the name comes from) in England, where it has its origin.
The word ‘stout’ was used to describe strong versions of all types of beers, but wasn’t a style on its own yet. As porters made their way over to Ireland, there was a brewery called St. James’s Gate Brewery (Guinness), that started to brew a ‘porter’ in the late 1700s. However, this porter turned out to be a complex, big-bodied and very strong one at 7,5% ABV. This beer is nothing like the Guinness we know nowadays. The brewery called this one a ‘stout porter’, because it was so strong. This was later shorted into ‘stout’.
Somewhere in the 1700s, English breweries began brewing stouts for export, such as Russian imperial Stout and Foreign Extra Stout, which was brewed to send to the Caribbean. These beers were very loved.
Because of the porters popularity, breweries made them in different strengths, which led to popularize the word ‘stout’. This makes that there is still some confusion about the difference between stouts and porters.
What makes a beer a stout?
So, after this history lesson it is time to answer the question, before diving into the common styles. While not all stouts have a high ABV, they do all have a characteristic roasted flavor. This is what makes a stout stand out from other styles of beer. Like most beers, they are made with hops and yeast. However, stouts are heavy in roasted barley or other roasted malts.
There are a lot of variations of stouts. Each variation has their own characteristics. Time to go over the most common ones.
Russian Imperial Stout
This stout was brewed by the English for the court of Catherine II of Russia in the 1700s. To make sure that the beers lasted the trip, they loaded the stout with hops. Russian Stouts are known to be very strong beers, from 8 to 11% ABV. They have a bit of a bitter taste with fruity notes.
As you can probably guess, oatmeal stouts are brewed with oatmeal. The oatmeal gives the stout a fuller body, smoothness and a bit more sweetness. Usually these brews have an ABV of 4 to 7%.
Dry Irish Stout
Because of the dark color, you might think that they have a very high ABV. However, these stouts are incredibly drinkable with a usual ABV of 3,5 to 5,5%. Are you having a medium bodied beer with the deep black stout color with a drinkable taste? It is probably a Dry Irish Stout.
Besides heavy and creamy, stouts can also be sweet. The Sweet Stout frequently contains more residual dextrin and unfermented sugars than other styles. Milk Stouts are a variation to this style and contain – you guessed it again – milk sugars and lactose. Both types of stouts have a sweet profile, alongside the characteristic roasted flavor.
In our opinion drinking a stout is the perfect way to end your day. There are so many tasty variations, that there is a stout out there for everyone. We’ve got some very special ones on our current menu from breweries such as Founders and Evil Twin.