It’s National Stout Day, and since stouts are my favorite style of winter beer I’m going home to heft one tonight. What I love about stouts: stouts and porters were my gateway beers, my intros to craft beer and homebrew. Gotta be grateful for that. I love the biscuit-colored, persistent, creamy head, the roasted malts, the low hop bitterness (like a lot of women, I’m not big on bitterness, though other aspects of hops can turn me into a delighted walking exclamation point, than you Sun King and Three Floyds).
There are some really great stout recipes on the National Stout Daysite – try the triple chocolate stout brownies, for starters,
or the stout and cheddar rarebit with fried eggs. And of course Guinness pie, or Guinness chocolate cake (do use the orange drizzle)…one of my nephews used to insist on a Guinness pie at Christmas dinner, he loved mine so much.
All stouts are dark – a dark reddish brown at the lightest – and should be clear, though I can rarely tell to look because of the color. Lots of roasted malt in flavor and aroma (yum!), often chocolate or coffee notes. What’s not to like? (Granted these are what one friend calls “chewy”, and most of us don’t drink but one or two at a time) . Let us all raise a glass in honor of National Stout Day!
Dry or Irish stout, milk stout, oatmeal stout, foreign extra stout, Russian Imperial stout, what’s your preference?
Dry Stouts are very dark in color, and have coffee-like roasted barley and roasted malt aromas. Some have slight chocolate or cocoa notes. Low to no hop aroma. Examples include Guinness Draught Stout (also canned), Murphy’s Stout, Beamish Stout, Russian River O.V.L. Stout, Three Floyd’s Black Sun Stout, Orkney Dragonhead Stout, Old Dominion Stout, Goose Island Dublin Stout. Lots of ’em out there.
Sweet Stouts are very dark brown to black in color, and have a very mild roasted grain aroma. Sometimes you’ll notice coffee or chocolate notes, but what’s most noticeable is a cream-like sweetness on your tongue. They can be a little fruity, and like their dry kindred have very little or no hop aroma. Milk stouts fall in this category. Milk stouts really do have lactose (milk sugar) in them as a sweetener, so if you thought you tasted some dairy you weren’t wrong. Examples include Mackeson’s XXX Stout (alas no longer available in my area), Sheaf Stout, Samuel Adams Cream Stout, and Left Hand Milk.
Oatmeal Stouts are many people’s favorite stout. They are full-bodied (what stout isn’t?), roasty, and malty, the added oats can also add a nutty, grainy ﬂavor that I love. Stouts tend to have beautiful heads, oatmeal stouts especially so – cream-to-brown, persistent, creamy and thick. Examples include Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Young’s Oatmeal Stout, Maclay’s Oat Malt Stout, Tröegs Oatmeal Stout, New Holland The Poet, Goose Island Oatmeal Stout, Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout.
Foreign Extra Stouts have a lot of roasted grain aromas and like all stouts can have coffee, chocolate and/or lightly burnt notes. Those lightly burnt notes are what keep some folks away. Some versions will have a sweetness to them, like molasses perhaps. They are very dark brown to black, and should be clear, though you can hardly tell through the deep color. These truly are international; Examples include Dragon Stout (Jamaica), ABC Stout (Singapore), Royal Extra “The Lion Stout” (Trinidad), Jamaica Stout (Jamaica), ExportType: Freeminer Deep Shaft Stout, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (one of my favorites), Ridgeway of Oxfordshire Foreign Extra Stout, Coopers Best Extra Stout.
American Stouts are a little smellier, lovely aromas of roasted malts with the coffee/chocolate tones and low hoppiness so typical of stouts. American stouts can have a citrusy/resiny hop character, typical of a lot of American hops. There should be no burnt flavors, as there sometimes are in foreign extras. These generally look black, with a persistent tan head. Examples include Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout (love that name), Sierra Nevada Stout, Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout.
Russian Imperial Stout are oh, my. Rich, complex, can be slightly vinous or like port. The malt character should be complex, the aroma rather rich, the flavor may include dark fruit notes (think plums or raisins). Hops here can be quite aggressive and any hop variety is fair game. Dark reddish-brown to jet black in appearance. Examples include Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Stone Imperial Stout, Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, Scotch Irish Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout, Deschutes The Abyss, ogue Imperial Stout, Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.