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What is a Stout?

Do you know the difference between a stout and a porter? It may surprise you to know that there actually isn’t a difference. Stouts are one type of porter, meaning all stouts are porters but not all porters are stouts.

Porters have been brewed since the early 1700’s. They became very popular in England and their popularity led to many varieties of porter being created. At the time the word “stout” was used to describe strong (very alcoholic) beers, even in other beer styles such as pale ales. The first “stout porters” then were just stronger versions of porters.

In the beginning both porters and stouts were probably brown in color, as it wasn’t until 1817 that a device was invented to roast malt and barley. This allowed for darker roasts of malt and barley and thus darker beers.

If you research where the style of “stout” seems to diverge from “porter” many sources will lead you to Guiness. In 1820 they re-named one of their porters “Guiness Extra Stout Porter” and then eventually dropped “Porter” from the name. Given that dark roasted malts were becoming more readily available at this time, it would seem that it was becoming easier to make a distinction between the two styles.

Within the category of stouts there are many different varieties:

Dry Stout (also called Irish Stout): dry, low alcohol content, roasted and coffee tastes. Examples: Guiness, Murphy’s, Beamish

Imperial Stout: very strong stout with high alcohol content (most say >9% abv). These were originally brewed for the court of Catherine II of Russia. The beer had to be made strong the last the journey from England to Russia.
Examples: North Coast “Old Rasputin,” Bells “Expedition Stout,” Samuel Smith’s “Imperial Stout,” Surly “Darkness”

Sweet Stout (or Milk Stout): Brewed with lactose sugar which is not fermented by brewer’s yeast. The sugar adds a sweetness to the beer.
Examples: Left Hand “Milk Stout,” Tallgrass “Buffalo Sweat,” Brau Brothers “Moo Joos”

Oatmeal Stout (also Breakfast Stout): brewed with oats to give the beer a smoother feel and add fullness to the body. I have seen this classified as a type of sweet stout in some places.
Examples: Samuel Smith’s “Oatmeal Stout,” Summit “Oatmeal Stout”

Chocolate Stout (not an official category of stout, these are usually sweet stouts): Brewed with chocolate malts, which are just dark roasted malts. Some varieties are brewed with actual chocolate, though.
Examples: Young’s “Double Chocolate Stout,” Odell “Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout”

Coffee Stout (not an official category of stout, usually a different style of stout brewed with coffee): Brewed with the darkest roasted grains, which tend to have flavors and aromas similar to coffee. Some varieties are brewed with actual coffee grains added.
Examples: Bells “Java Stout,” Founders “Breakfast Stout”

What is your favorite type of stout?

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