Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Christopher with Craig O'Herron
at Sideswipe Brewing
Listen to the HOMETOWN CRAFT BEER NETWORK TAPROOM TALK podcast on STOUT featuring Craig O'Herron, Owner and Brewer at Sideswipe Brewing. 

There are plenty of websites and information resources offering some very good historical perspectives of Stout (even Wikipedia offers an excellent summary). And, of course, there are the Stout aficionados that are all too willing to offer technicals to the nth degree.  The bottom line up front (BLUF) is this: the derivation and history of Stout is intertwined with Porter dating back to London in the early 1700s (arguably 1677 – see generally the Egerton Manuscripts, maintained by the British Library).  Technically speaking, all Stouts are Porters, but not all Porters are Stouts.  Porter originated in London in the early 1700s.  Brewers used malts kilned through new techniques, which were darker and more complex than paler malts in common usage at the time.  The resulting ale was dark, complex, robust, and aged well, thus making it an ideal beer to create and transport throughout the British Empire. 

Traditionally, “Stout Porter” is a stronger variation of Porter.  This stronger Porter was dubbed “Stout” to indicate its sturdiness and higher alcohol content – typically in the 7 to 8 percent range – and its corresponding more complex texture and flavor.

The seminal development in the evolution of Porter and Stout came in the late 1700s or early 1800s when there was a shift away from exclusively using Brown or Pale Malt to incorporating Patent Malt.  The European Beer Guide describes this evolutionary step as:
The large London Porter breweries pioneered many technological advances, such as the use of the thermometer (about 1760) and the hydrometer (1770). The use of the latter was to transform the nature of Porter. The first Porters were brewed from 100% Brown Malt. Now brewers were able to accurately measure the yield of the malt they used, it was noticed that Brown Malt, though cheaper than Pale Malt, only produced about two thirds as much fermentable material. When the malt tax was increased to help pay for the Napoleonic War, brewers had an incentive to use less malt. Their solution was to use a proportion of Pale Malt and add colouring to obtain the expected hue.
When a law was passed in 1816 allowing only malt and hops to be used in the production of beer (a sort of British Reinheitsgebot) they were left in a quandry. Their problem was solved by Wheeler´s invention of patent malt in 1817. It was now possible to brew Porter from 95% Pale Malt and 5% patent malt, though most London brewers continued to use some Brown Malt for flavour.

Travis in the middle of making
Sideswipe's Mastermind,
an Imperial Stout
Through the years since the 1700s, variations to stouts evolved including Imperial or Russian Stout, Oyster Stout, Milk Stout, and Oatmeal (Breakfast) Stout.  In the 1800s, the term “Chocolate Stout” evolved from its first use indicating the use of dark, chocolate-colored malt to the modern understanding that chocolate or cacao are actually added to the beer make-up.  Recently, blonde Stouts are starting to show up in certain craft breweries.

The main difference between Stouts made in America and those made in the native United Kingdom are the hops and to a lesser extent the malt.  American Stouts are made with English Noble hops, but also infused with American hops, which tend to provide a bit more bitterness.  UK Stouts are made pretty much strictly with English Noble hops.  Brew Your Own® (BYO) Magazine has a great article describing Stout, specifically going into depth about the grain bill(s).

I understand - Stouts can be intimidating.  There rich, full body leaves initial impressions of a heavy, bitter beer.  While this is true to a certain extent, but certainly Stouts offer a robust alternative similar to a cup of hot chocolate.

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