Style Profile: Stout

Posted on 11.26.07 3:55PM under Stout, Style Profile

Glass of StoutGuinness is one of the most famous beers of all time. Everyone will immediately recognize its opaque black body and dense tan head formed of tiny bubbles that slowly settle to the top of the glass. Much of the characteristic head comes from Nitrogen-based “carbonation” systems used for dispensing the beer. But the dark black color of the beer is the classic trademark appearance of a Stout.

There are dry stouts, sweet stouts, oatmeal stout, and extra stout. Not to be forgotten, Imperial Stout and Russian Imperial Stout. But in the end, they’re all cousins in the beer family tree. The main distinguishing characteristic of a stout is a dark roasted barley presence. It is what gives the beer its impossibly dark color and its bitter, burnt flavor. Many stouts also show coffee and chocolate flavors, anywhere from subtle to blatant. Hop bitterness is common in stouts, to balance the dark malt flavors, but hop aroma is uncommon.

Guinness is a dry stout. Sweet stouts are made (perhaps obviously) a bit sweeter than a dry stout. Sweet stouts have also been called milk stouts, as back in the day they used milk to sweeten the beer. Oatmeal stout is (again, perhaps obviously) made with oats. This gives a unique sweetness and a creamy smoothness to the beer. Extra stout is a little bigger than a normal stout, meaning it has more alcohol. Extra stout was originally made for export, and needed to be bigger to withstand export conditions.

Russian Imperial Stout is a very old style made (gee these are all somewhat obvious once you see them written down) to impress the Russian Czars. Imperial Stout has made a big comeback these days with all the American brewers having a contest of sorts to see who can make the biggest and boldest beers. As with all styles Imperial, the (Russian) Imperial Stouts are essentially double-strength stouts. They are blacker than black, and roastier than roasty. They warm you from head to toe and then back to your head as you make your way through one of these.

Stouts are well known for pairing with shellfish such as oysters. Some rich stouts make great accompaniment to dessert, particularly very dark chocolates. Imperial stouts are so strongly flavored that they can be desserts by themselves, or enjoyed just as a pure indulgence of drinking.

For more information on the Stout family of beers, or any beer styles in general, please feel free to contact me!

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