The Stout (also known as Porter) and most commonly known as “black beer” is one of the most popular and spreaded styles. The first thing that catches your eye is it’s dark colour, varying in tones from deep black to dark brown. This colour comes from toasting a lot the barley (same that happens to the bread in the oven).
In the world of beer, opinion is divided about the difference between porters and stouts. Porter was so named because it was first brewed as a more nourishing beer for the port workers on the 19th century England. During the beer making of other beer styles there often was over toasted barley, which was used to brew this type of beer to not make that much waste of material. The word stout came a bit later (and it means robust, solid, or strong), and it was used to diferentiate it from the porter due to a stronger abv.
Regardless of the name, this dark beer is often characterized by a rich, mellow taste with coffee, chocolate or nut notes from the dark-roasted malt or barley. It ranges alcohol content from 4% to 8% abv, and the bitterness is generally moderate. Within the stout category, there are also varieties such as dry stout – the Irish version (for example Guinness) which, in spite of the dark clour, is characterized by being refreshing and light with a low alcohol content (3-5%). Another less mainstream option could be the Porterhouse from Dublin.
It also exist the Milk Stout. It gets the name due to it’s cremosity, that comes from the addition of non fermentable lactose during the brewing process. That’s a fairly new style, even though the idea came in 1857 no one really made anything drinkable until 1907 in England.
Beer geeks always prefer hardest to make beer, and with highest abv content, and there’s where the Imperial Stout or Russian Imperial Stout come into the game. If you check the top 50 best beers in the world on Ratebeer you’ll see what I’m talking about). The name was originally used to describe the stout that the British exported to the Russian court in the 19th century. In order to preserve the beer on the long journey by ship, it was brewed with a higher alcohol content. In modern Imperial stouts, the high alcohol content is balanced out by intensifying the bitterness, the sweetness or both. Imperial stouts are always dark, with a high abv, from around 9% to right up to 18% abv. Within the past three years, freeze-distillation of strong beers has gained in prominence, allowing beers with an alcoholc content in excess of 50% abv .
Generally, due to stouts and porters not having that much amount of hops, they can be matured like wine (in styles like IPA or Double IPAs they loose freshness if you store them). Lately it’s very common for brewers to buy used wood barrels from wine or whiskey makers and mature their stouts inside, so the beer absorbs the flavours and aromas from their container ending up with burgundy barrel aged stouts, or bourbon coffee stouts.
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