Matt’s Myriad of Beer Styles #9 – Stout

In the Summer 2016 edition of Ouse Boozer, we covered the dark delights of Porter. This time we are going to look at its older sibling, Stout.

The origins of the name are straightforward. In the 18th century, it was usual for the strongest beer brewed by a brewery to be called stout, therefore the higher gravity versions of porter – typically 7% or 8% ABV – were known as stout porters. This was eventually abbreviated to stout. So, stout actually refers to a beer’s strength, not its colour. Stouts can therefore be pale, although such beers are not very common.

Stout is most commonly associated with Ireland and the famous brands of Guinness, Beamish & Crawford and Murphy’s, following those brewers’ decisions to concentrate on the darker styles of ale. Indeed, it was stout that saw Guinness rise from being the largest brewer in the UK at the end of 19th century to the largest brewer in the world by the end of World War One.

As the development of the style was covered in edition #7, let’s have a look at some of the sub-styles of stout in this edition. Before the 1880s, beer was taxed on the amount of malt it contained, not its ABV. Guinness realised they would pay less tax if they used unmalted (and so untaxed!) roasted barley in their beer. The resulting roasted and bitter flavour was known as dry Irish stout, which is now famous throughout the world. A local(ish) example is Tapped Brew Co Stout (4%).

Milk stout became popular in the UK after World War One, declined towards the end of the 19th century, and is currently undergoing a resurgence. Sources suggest that a survey in the mid-1980s by What’s Brewing found only 29 UK and Channel Island breweries making stouts, most of which were milk stouts. This seems incredible these days, with most of Britain’s 1,700 brewers producing an example of stout or porter.

Also known as sweet stout, milk stout contains lactose, which is a sugar derived from milk. It was held in high regard and was even recommended to pregnant women for medicinal reasons, as my mother will confirm! Perhaps the most famous example of milk stout is Mackeson’s (2.8%). Local examples include Brew York Tonkoko (4.3%), which was brewed especially for this year’s York Beer & Cider Festival by some of our volunteers, and BAD Co. Dazed & Confused (5.5%).

Another reasonably well known type of stout is oatmeal stout. This beer contains an amount of oats, perhaps up to 30%, and is a concept that originated in medieval Europe. The oats produce a bitter taste in the beer. The Hop Studio’s Avenoir (6.5%), Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Oatmeal Stout (5%) and Bad Seed Brewery’s Oatmeal Stout (4%) are examples I have sampled from breweries close to home.

Chocolate stout, as the name suggests, is a stout with chocolate flavours, brought about by the use of dark malts, particularly chocolate malt. These malts are roasted until they turn a chocolate colour. Probably the most famous chocolate stout in Great Britain is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (5.2%). A slightly obscure take on the style is oyster stout. In the 18th century, oysters were popular pub grub and began being used in brews in the 1930s. Modern versions tend to include a handful of oysters per brew, but some beers named oyster stout may actually only use the name as a suggestion of something to eat with the beer, not because they contain oysters! Misleading, or what!?

Now it’s the Big Daddy of stout – Imperial stout or Russian imperial stout. This has the strongest ABV of the family (usually around 9%) and was originally brewed for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. One of my personal favourites is Acorn Gorlovka Imperial Stout (6%). Brass Castle Annexation (8.3%), York Imperium (7.4%) and Black Sheep Imperial Russian (8.5%) are others from our neck o’ the woods. I do like a stout and this has made me thirsty! Now where’s that Half Moon Robustus Lunam (5%)?

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