THE ORIGIN OF STYLE
The Stout style descends directly from the Porter beers. In fact, at the end of the 17th century/beginning of the 18th century, the word "stout" was commonly used to refer to those beers that, regardless of style, were characterized as being stronger than the rest.
A Porter is a high-fermentation beer born in London around the year 1700. It became highly popular with the city’s working class and river porters. At that time it was very common to blend several types of beer (young: brown ale and mild ale and matured: stale) in the same pint. This combination better known as "Entire" has been indicated by several sources as the origin of the Porter. On the other hand, there are indications to the stronger versions of Porter being called "Stout Porter”; a name that with time was reduced to simply "Stout".
The restrictions of the use of energy in Great Britain during the First World War and the government’s prohibition for the English brewers to toast the malt caused however that these beers were losing acclaim in England and the market passed into the hands of the Irish. Does the name Mr. Arthur Guinness ring a bell?
MAIN STOUT SUB-STYLES
It is certain that innovation has taken over the Stout style during the past few years, which causes more and more references to include the addition of fruits, extracts, sugars or spices during the brewing process. You can also find a great variety of beers that have been matured in barrels where previously another type of distillate (whiskey, rum, bourbon etc.) have been fermenting, but we believe that the best way to approach the style is looking at the standards.
This is why I have decided use the BJCP Style Guidelines published in 2015 as a reference, in order to distinguish some of the most famous sub-styles of the Stout family and get to know their main characteristics (which may vary depending on the country where they are brewed).
1. IRISH DRY STOUT
Black beer with a pronounced roasted flavor similar to coffee, and chocolate notes. The balance can range from fairly (with greater presence of malty sweetness) to bitter (a drier character).
2. SWEET SOUT / MILK STOUT
A very dark, sweet, full-bodied, creamy, and slightly roasted ale. Its flavor can resemble a cofee-and-cream or a sweetened espresso, all derived from the use of lactose as a sweetener.
3. OATMEAL STOUT
A very dark, roast, silky and malty ale with a significant creaminess. Nutty and grainy notes due to the use of oats. Its sweetness lies between the Irish Dry Stout and the Sweet / Milk Stout above.
4. IRISH EXTRA STOUT
A full-bodied black beer, with a pronounced roasted flavor and a strong presence of reminiscent nuances of dark chocolate. The balance can range from bittersweet to bitter. Notes of biscuit and vanilla. Complex.
5. FOREIGN EXTRA STOUT
Very dark, moderately strong, robust, fairly dry with prominent roasted flavors. Light character, burnt grain profile and a warming feeling from the alcohol. The American version, the American Stout, offers a greater presence of hops.
6. IMPERIAL STOUT
An intensely-flavored dark ale, with deep dark or dried fruit flavors. A warm and bittersweet finish. Rich, intense body, velvety texture and low carbonation. The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity.