First produced in Ireland in the 1730’s, Stout beer is a variant of Porter, a beer that first appeared a few years earlier as an alternative to the sweet brown ales popular at the time.
Named for those who drank it most, the street and river porters of London, Porter was made with dark malt and strong hops, and evolved over the following century into a variety of distinct Stouts, as brewers experimented with different variations of the basic brew.
The world-famous Imperial Stout was born at the behest of Czarina Catherine the Great of Russia. Responding to the rising demand for beer coming from her court, London brewers began to produce thge highly-hopped, high-alcohol stout designed to survive the long trip to Russia.
North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin is a fine local Russian Imperial Stout .
Despite the name, Coffee or Chocolate Stout need not be brewed with either coffee or chocolate. Devout Stout from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, is a Chocolate Stout that derives its pleasing bitter-sweet profile just from, organic barley, hops, and water.
Milk Stout was invented with nutrition in mind. Besides the traditional barley and hops it is brewed with both whey and sweet unfermentable lactose (both by-products of cheese making). Milk Stout was all the rage in Britain when it was first produced and aggressively marketed as a healthy alternative to milk. Though the lactose does add a delightful milky, burnt-sugar flavor and round viscous mouthfeel, the health claims of Milk Stout’s are somewhat exaggerated. In 1946 British authorities actually made it illegal to put the word “milk” on a Stout label as they deemed it to be too misleading. In the U.S, where no such restrictions were ever mandated, craft brewers are able to both confuse and inspire a whole new generation of Milk Stout enthusiasts.
Most Irish Stouts are known for being dry. A few, like Oatmeal Stout, are sweet and mellow. A nice Californian example of this style is Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout.
The Irish have long produced the world’s most popular dry Stout. Contrary to its dark hue, Dublin’s classic Guinness Stout is actually quite light in both in body and alcohol. Beloved around the world for its creamy head, delicate notes of malty caramel, and a pleasant dry-roasted finish, Guinness has inspired several great Californian micro-brews including Mendocino Brewing Company’s Black Hawk Stout, and Rogue Brewery’s Shakespeare Stout, both of which are significantly hoppier than their Irish progenitor.