Stout and About #BrewedAwakening
With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, it is time to return to an annual tradition (at least for me) of trying a few stouts. Lucky for us lovers of black beer, there are plenty on offer these days, what with the proliferation of new versions from the hundreds of new Canadian breweries, as well as old classics. There are also what I’d call modern classics, such as St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, from pioneering Montreal brewery McAuslan, which has won just about as many awards as a Canadian beer can win.
First though, what is stout? Most people know it is a dark, opaque beer, usually full bodied, and generally associated with Ireland. That’s mainly because of Guinness, which is probably the most well known of all the full flavoured beers from the big brewery conglomerations. Stout evolved out of the Porters brewed in England. Porters were popular dark ales brewed as early as the 1720s, named because they were popular with the working class, like the Porters who worked the rivers and streets. They were originally a blend of other beers, but eventually became their own style.
Stout Porter was a stouter version of Porter, stronger and generally more bitter. These days we define Stout as a black beer employing a goodly amount of roasted unmalted barley as well as other dark malts, whereas Porter tends to be smoother and maltier, less bitter, using less (or no) roasted barley, but still using lots of black malt and chocolate malt. A high level of roasted barley results in a drier, more bitter brew.
Arthur Guinness was brewing Porter in Ireland as early as 1776, and most beer history books credit him, and later on his son Arthur Guinness II, with popularizing the roastier Stout, and being savvy about developing the technique and the style. Their most popular beer today, Guinness draught (also in can and bottled format, with a N2/CO2 gas mix giving a creamy head), is a style that developed gradually, and is now an easy drinking, relatively low alcohol (4.2%) and medium bodied stout, but still fairly roasty and bitter.
According to the Guinness website, “Extra Superior Porter was a slightly stronger porter designed for the British market. This beer is still brewed today and is known as Guinness Extra Stout, or Guinness Original.” There is also a Foreign Extra Stout, popular in the Caribbean, which is sweet and ~7.5% alcohol, and typically served cold.
However you like your stout: dry and roasty, strong and bitter, or smooth, chocolatey and rich, enjoy it this week as we all pretend we’re Irish.
Guinness Draught, Ireland, 4.2%
– pours black with a creamy, even head. Not much aroma, as this head blocks aromas from coming out of the beer. Taste is a mix of espresso, tar and dark malt, with a fairly bitter finish. Body is smooth and creamy.
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Quebec, 5.0%
– pours black and thick, with a dark tan head. Aroma is roasted malt, coffee and black licorice. These show up on the palate as well, which is balanced with good bitterness. Body is full and creamy.
Bogtrotter Snapping Turtle Stout, New Brunswick, 4.8%
– a nice example of a modern stout, done in the classic style. Roasted barley, chocolate aromas, not too bitter. Nice body with some sweet caramel malt and balanced bitterness. If you try this next to Guinness it tastes quite sweet.
Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout, Scotland, 6.1%
– part of their Kindred Spirits program, this strong stout pours black but with almost no head, which is not unusual for barrel aged beer. It has a tarry, woody, caramel nose. The palate has a bit of caramel sweetness, notable alcohol, and finishes a bit sweet, with some balancing bitterness.