What is stout?
Very simply, a stout is a dark, top-fermented, full flavoured ale. The alcohol percentage can be anything from 4% to 14%.
Stouts are defined by their pronounced coffee flavours. Stouts are also famed for their roasted barley malt flavours and balanced bitterness. They tend to be dry with a strong roasted aroma.
They have a broad flavour profile which has led to a number of variations. These include, but are not exclusive to; dry stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, and imperial stout.
But to really understand stout you need to know it's origins and long history with the lesser known porter. Read "A history of porter and stout" to learn more.
Milk stout, Imperial stout and Irish stout
- Milk stout: Also known as 'sweet stout' or 'creamy stout'. As the name suggests, lactose is added to these beers, a sugar typical of milk, giving the beer a certain sweetness and richness. Try Wild Beer Co Millionaire, this salted caramel chocolate milk stout is the height of luxury!
- Oatmeal stout: Has a smooth sweet finish; it's rich and full bodied. They are known to be velvety and sweet. Fourpure do an excellent example, which is also available in SUB Keg.
- Irish dry stout: These beers have a very dark colour, with an intense flavour. Coffee tones are detectable. The best-known stout is made by Guinness.
- Export stout: Guinness produces a stronger stout for export. Export Stout has a higher alcohol volume and a distinctive character. You can taste the wheat and toasted malt with smokey notes of coffee and chocolate.
- Russian imperial stout: (RIS): By far the strongest of all the stouts. An extra heavy stout which is strongly hopped to survive the journey from England to the Baltic states.
- Oyster stout: Aside from the four most important stouts there are further variations on this ever popular beer. An oyster stout is brewed with oysters, they are added to the brew during the cooking process.
- Extra stout: It’s bitter but light bodied with a clean, dry finish.
A stout is best served at a temperature of 10-14 degrees Celsius. This is slightly warm than you would serve a lager or lighter ale. A tulip or pint glass will bring out the best of the aromas. Interested in learning more about beer glasses? Read our article all about it!
How to pour stout
When pouring stout into a glass, start with the tulip or pint glass at a 45-degree angle. Start to pour and as the glass fills, start to straighten it up so that it is vertical, you want to build a head that's roughly 1-1/2 inches thick. Read, "How to pour a pint" for a more detailed description.
Stout ice cream float
Stouts are perfect for making a typical 'ice cream float'. Pour a generous dash of beer over a couple of scoops of vanilla ice-cream and enjoy. They're also suitable for baking pies and cakes, and their lightly roasted flavours make them a great addition to biramisu.
Stout storage and barrel aging stouts
Heavier varieties (> 8%) of stouts are ideal for storing. These beers are aged in the bottle, which gives them a rounder and more intense flavour. They're also perfect for aging in wooden barrels where other drinks have been stored such as bourbon or cognac. Barrel aging adds flavour to the beer in two ways: by imbuing it with the flavour of the drink that was in the barrel before, and through the barrel itself. Think of vanilla, herbs, wood, coconut, smoky and caramel tones.