Deliciously creamy, dry and roasty, stout is one of the most recognizable beer styles. Most folks have tried a Guinness, the classic example of Dry Irish Stout, but there are many ways to make a stout and almost as many to drink one. The stout’s history is intertwined with that of porter. Both are dark, roasty beers with British origins, and there is a lot overlap between the styles. An oft-repeated claim is that stout started off as “stout porter”, a stronger version of porter. In present times stout is more frequently a feature for roasted barley, a very dark, highly roasted grain made from unmalted barley. This, along with the occasional use of other roasted grains, lends the beer its distinct coffee-like roasted character and pitch-black color.
Dry Irish Stout - This is the classic style embodied by Guinness, but Murphy’s and Beamish also make fine examples. The dryness comes from big use of roasted barley and firm bittering, without caramel malts to add sweetness. This type of stout is often served on draft using a blend of nitrogen and co2 called “beer gas” and a special stout faucet that contains a degassing restrictor plate. The secret to the full-bodied texture lies not just in the beer gas, which lends a low level of carbonation, but also in the use of flaked barley. This grain can’t be used in extract brewing, just partial mash and all-grain, but it is well worth the trouble.
Sweet Stout - Sometimes called “milk stout” or “cream stout” as well. A British invention, occasionally claimed to be a healthy, nutritious beer for nursing mothers! The “milk” part comes from the addition of lactose, an unfermentable milk sugar. This gives the final product a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor and full body, which balances nicely with the coffee/chocolate flavor of roasted barley.
Oatmeal Stout - Another British invention, this style has really taken off in the past few decades and is a commonly brewed stout in America. The addition of oats, in malted or flaked forms, gives the standard stout a slick, silky mouthfeel and slightly nutty oat flavor. Using oats requires either partial mash or all-grain brewing, as their starches won’t be broken down with extract brewing techniques.
American Stout - Craft breweries in the US have been interested in stout from the start. Characteristic American hops such as Cascade are often used to create a hoppier beer, usually a bit more bitter and with more hop flavor than their English counterparts. The roasted character is generally strong, but the body can vary quite a bit, from smooth to sharp.
Imperial Stout - Rich, dense, STRONG. Imperial stout is one of the biggest, baddest beers around. Originally brewed in England for export to the Russian Imperial court, but now the darling of many American craft breweries. Imperial stouts have everything scaled up: higher gravity, more hops, more roasted grains. Expect them to take months to age into their prime, but when they do they are deliciously intense sippers.