Stouts are by far the sexiest beer out there. It’s a fact, get over it,  I don’t make the rules! They have been around so long and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are consistent, versatile and they always keep you on your toes. Basically relationship goals, am I right? This is the beer that always calls back and you for sure want to bring them home for the holidays to meet mom and dad.

Let’s get into how Stouts got their start and how they grew into what they are today! 

The History of Stouts

In 18th-century England, stouts emerged from the evolution of porter beer. Initially, porter, a favored style made with brown malt and low alcohol content, served as the foundation. However, brewers soon ventured into uncharted territory, experimenting with different malts and techniques to create stronger, darker versions. These bolder porters eventually earned the name “stouts.”

The term “stout” made its debut in an English newspaper back in 1677, yet its precise meaning, whether referring to darkness or strength, remains elusive. It wasn’t until 1725 that an advertisement featured “stout porter,” a robust brew cherished by porters and laborers alike.

As the 19th century rolled in, stouts solidified their distinct identity, showcasing variations like dry stouts, sweet stouts, and imperial stouts. Among them, Irish stout stood tall, renowned for its dry, roasted flavor and velvety texture. Arthur Guinness, pioneering the Irish stout movement, established his iconic brewery in Dublin during the 18th century, birthing the legendary Guinness.

In modern times, stouts enjoy a global presence, offering a vast array of styles and flavors. While diversity reigns, stouts continue to captivate aficionados, holding steadfast to their popularity, encapsulating a storied past and cultural significance.

Origin of the word “Stout”

An English newspaper first used the term “stout” to describe beer in 1677, though it’s unclear if it referred to darkness or strength. In 1725, an advertisement introduced “stout porter,” a robust brew loved by laborers.

The origins of the name “stout” are uncertain, but it likely came from the Old English word meaning strong or brave. Initially, it described strong beers in general, later becoming associated with dark beers. Another theory suggests “stout” referred to the strong porters popular in 18th-century England, evolving into the separate stout category.

Regardless of its exact origin, “stout” now represents a flavorful, dark beer cherished by beer enthusiasts worldwide.

Brewing Process for Stouts

Brewing stouts typically involves the following steps:

Mash: To brew any beer, the first step involves mashing the grains. When making stouts, brewers typically combine pale malt and roasted barley. They crush the grains and mix them with hot water, a process called mashing. This activates enzymes that convert the grains’ starches into fermentable sugars.

Boil: Following the mashing process, brewers boil the wort, the liquid extracted from the grains, with hops and other flavoring ingredients. The duration of the boil and the choice of hops depend on the particular stout style being brewed.

Ferment: After boiling the wort, brewers cool it and add yeast to initiate fermentation. The fermentation process usually lasts for several days to a week. During this time, the yeast consumes the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Age: After fermentation is complete, the beer is typically aged for several weeks to several months, depending on the style of stout. Some stouts, such as imperial stouts, may be aged for even longer periods of time to allow the flavors to develop and mellow.

Carbonate and package: Lastly, brewers carbonate the beer and package it in bottles or kegs. For certain stouts, like nitro stouts, nitrogen is used for carbonation instead of carbon dioxide, resulting in a creamy texture and smooth mouthfeel.

Brewers can vary the exact brewing process for stouts based on style and personal preferences. However, these steps outline the basic process for brewing a typical stout.

Common Flavor Profiles of Stouts

Stouts can have a wide range of flavor profiles depending on the specific style and ingredients used in the brewing process. Here are some of the most common flavor profiles of stouts:

Roasted: Brewers often use roasted barley in the making of stouts, imparting a roasted flavor reminiscent of coffee or dark chocolate. This flavor profile particularly stands out in Irish stouts.

Sweet: Milk stouts, among others, incorporate lactose to contribute sweetness and creaminess to the beer. Additional stouts may utilize ingredients such as chocolate or caramel to craft a sweet flavor profile.

Bitter: Stouts, particularly imperial stouts, can possess a bitter flavor profile due to their high alcohol content and prominent hop presence.

Smoky: Some stouts, especially those brewed with smoked malts, can exhibit a smoky flavor profile reminiscent of smoked meats or cheese.

Fruity: Certain stouts incorporate fruit or fruit extracts to infuse a fruity flavor profile. One popular variation is cherry stouts, known for their distinctive fruity taste.

n general, stouts exhibit complexity by combining these flavor profiles, making them a versatile beer style that appeals to a wide range of tastes.

Different Styles of Stouts

Multiple stout styles exist, each showcasing unique characteristics. Let’s explore some of the most common styles of stout:

Irish Dry Stout: Known as the classic stout style often associated with Guinness, it boasts a dry, roasted flavor, a slightly bitter finish, and a creamy head.

American Stout: Differing from its Irish counterpart, this stout style showcases a stronger hop presence, featuring a more pronounced bitterness and a bolder roasted flavor. It frequently boasts a higher alcohol content than Irish dry stouts.

Imperial Stout: Also known as Russian Imperial Stout, this beer style, originating in 18th-century England, boasts high alcohol content. It presents a rich, dark, and complex profile, characterized by a full body and flavors of chocolate, coffee, and dark fruit.

Milk Stout: Brewed with lactose, a non-fully fermentable sugar, this sweet stout incorporates a creamy sweetness into the beer and imparts a smooth mouthfeel.

Oatmeal Stout: Brewers craft this stout style by incorporating oats, resulting in a silky texture and subtle sweetness. It delivers a smooth, full-bodied flavor featuring notes of coffee and chocolate.

Foreign Extra Stout: An amplified and robust rendition of Irish dry stout, this style incorporates increased malt and hop quantities. It presents a rich and intricate flavor profile, showcasing notes of dark fruit and concluding with a slightly bitter finish.

These are just a few examples of the many different styles of stout beer. Each style possesses its distinct flavor profile and brewing techniques, contributing to their popularity among beer enthusiasts.

Best Practices for Pouring and Serving Stouts

The best way to pour and serve a stout depends on the specific style of stout, but here are some general tips:

Temperature: To fully develop flavors and aromas, it is recommended to serve stouts at a slightly warmer temperature than other beers, typically around 50-55°F (10-13°C).

Glassware: Traditionally, stouts are served in a tulip glass or a pint glass featuring a wide mouth and a narrow base. The wide mouth enables a complete sensory experience of the beer’s aroma, while the narrow base aids in capturing the beer’s carbonation and preserving its creamy texture.

Pouring: To prevent excessive foam formation when pouring a stout, it is crucial to pour it gently. Begin by tilting the glass at a 45-degree angle and slowly pour the beer down the side. As the glass fills, gradually straighten it to generate a modest head of foam.

Serving: After pouring the stout, it is vital to allow it to settle for a minute or two, enabling the foam to disperse and the flavors to fully evolve. You can then take your time to enjoy the beer slowly, savoring its intricate flavors and creamy texture.

Optional: Nitro stouts, like other stouts, are served using a nitrogen-pressurized tap system. To achieve a velvety texture, these stouts are poured with greater force, resulting in a dense and creamy foam head that enhances the beer’s smooth mouthfeel.

In general, discovering the optimal pouring and serving technique for a stout involves experimentation and finding what suits your preferences and the particular beer you are indulging in.

How Stouts Have Expanded in the World

Over the past few decades, the global expansion of stouts has been significant. While stouts were initially a British beer style, they are now brewed in numerous countries worldwide, such as the United States, Ireland, Belgium, and Australia, among others.

The popularity of craft beer has played a significant role in the expansion of stouts. The rise of small, independent breweries worldwide has fueled a demand for distinctive and flavorful beer styles, including stouts. Craft brewers, in their pursuit of creativity, have embarked on experimenting with various malts, hops, and brewing techniques to craft a diverse array of stouts with distinct flavors and enticing aromas.

The growing interest in beer and food pairings has played a significant role in the expansion of stouts. Food enthusiasts and beer enthusiasts alike favor stouts for their ability to complement a diverse range of foods, including roasted meats, chocolate, and desserts. This popularity among foodies and beer enthusiasts has fueled the increasing demand for stouts.

In addition, the rise of beer festivals and competitions has helped to showcase the diversity and complexity of the stout style. Many of these events feature stouts from around the world, allowing beer lovers to sample different styles and flavors and discover new favorites.

Overall, the expansion of stouts in the world is a testament to the versatility and popularity of this classic beer style. Whether you prefer a classic Irish dry stout or a bold and flavorful imperial stout, there is a stout out there for every beer lover to enjoy.

My FAVORITE Event of the year is coming up and it is truly the best place to try as many lagers as possible, Little Beer hosted by Good Word Brewing! This beer festival features beers that measure in at 4% or lower ABV. Breweries from all over the country will be showcasing their lagers, pilsners and ales and you won’t want to miss it! The event is Apr 15, 2023 and tickets can be purchased here.