Stouts are one of the most popular types of craft beer, but, because of their reputation of stronger flavors, higher alcohol content, and their dark appearance, they may seem intimidating to novice craft beer drinkers. When presented with this style of craft beer, you may even find yourself asking, “what is a stout?”
Well, rest assured. Stouts are simply misunderstood, and even for novice drinkers, they can be very enjoyable once you understand what you like, what makes up a stout, their origins, and what makes them a great choice in beer.
What is a Stout?
A stout is a style of craft beer that is known first and foremost for its dark, and in most cases, opaque appearance, and also for its rich, bold flavor profile. Stouts are also traditionally characterized by having roasty or chocolatey notes coming from the malts used in the brewing process, high ABV and low bitterness.
Stouts are commonly conflated with another dark beer style, Porter. Truthfully, the two are quite similar but vary in the type of malt used in the brewing process.
What is the Origin of Stouts?
Stouts date back to the early 1700’s when the term “stout” was actually used to describe the strength of a Porter. See how this could get confusing? The word “stout” in this scenario meant “strong,” and was used in much the same way as we use the word “imperial” to describe a stronger beer today.
As “Stout Porters” continued to get stronger and grow in popularity, the style took on an identity of its own, bearing the truncated name of “Stout”. Since then, the style has been popularized by brands such as Guinness, but has also become a platform for experimentation by smaller craft breweries, bringing about newer styles such as hot pepper stouts.
How are Stouts Made?
Brewing a stout is much like brewing any other type of beer, but what gives a stout its defining characteristics are the ingredients that are used. Roasted barley is the key ingredient in bringing out the dark appearance, as well as the bold flavor of a stout. Maltsters choose the appropriate type of barley and follow very specific malting and roasting procedures to create malts with chocolatey, and coffee-like flavors which are what makes stouts so delicious.
If you’re new to stouts, you’ve probably noticed that there is not much of a hop flavor to be detected. Hops play much less of a role in stouts, typically only used for balancing out the malt flavors.
When is The Best Time to Enjoy Stouts?
Once you get into craft beer and start to try new styles, and eventually get brave enough to try out a dark stout, you can easily fall into the assumption that stouts are only for a certain time of the year - the colder months. And, if that’s when you prefer to enjoy your stouts, that is totally fine, but you can truthfully enjoy stouts at any time of the year, even in the dead of summer. It’s completely up to your preference.
For me personally, enjoying stouts is more about the occasion and the setting. If I’m looking to spend a little bit of time enjoying a beer and want something that allows me to focus on the flavor and the experience, a stout is an excellent option. In a similar way, if I’m enjoying a beer as a complement to something sweet like a desert, a stout’s chocolatey, roasty, or even coffee-like flavor profile is a perfect way to balance out the sweetness.
As with any other style of beer, when you choose to enjoy it and how you choose to enjoy it, is totally preferential and.. up to you! Let us know in the comments if you’re a fan of stouts, and if so, how and when you like to enjoy them.