Stouts: A Dark Origin

147Stouts! What comes to your mind?

If you are like most people, the immediate image that pops into mind is that Tulip pint, filled with that viscous black liquid till about 2 inches below the rim. Topped with that self balancing delicious and creamy frothy top. The well rounded, slightly smoked, almost chocolate goodness of that hearty dark ale. Do you crave a stout now? Go ahead, this will be here when you get back.

Back? Do you have your Freshly poured stout now? Okay, let’s continue.
New Holand the poet

Yes whether it’s a Irish Dry Stout like a Guinness, or an unfiltered, meaty Imperial like Rock Art’s Pumpkin Spruce stout, you know this is not your average lawnmower beer. How did stouts come to be? Why are they so popular? And besides color, what makes them different than other styles? Let’s take a look into dark beginnings of this style of beer.

The term “Stout” has not been around for that long historically speaking. In fact, some sources state the first mention of the term “Stout” in reference to beer was in the late 1600’s; inferring a strong beer, but not necessarily a dark beer. Strong beers and dark beers have been around for millenniums. In fact, if the carbon dating is correct, there were strong and dark beers going back to approximately 3000 B.C.E.  But distinguishing a specific beer style as a Stout, especially what we view as a stout, wasn’t recognized right away. In fact, the styles “Stout” and “Porter” were basically interchangeable for most of their history. So what exactly is a stout today?

In order to know what a stout is, we first have to define a porter (there will be more details on porters in an upcoming blog). Today a porter is a dark beer, with a variety of levels of strength. It is made from a top-fermented yeast with a grist of roasted malt. This not only affects its flavor, but gives this beer its distinguishing dark color. A stout is just a stronger variation of a porter. I know, that amazed me too.

Stronger Porters were originally titled Porter Stout, to distinguish the stronger Alcohol content of the beverage being consumed. Interestingly enough, there’s mention of a Blond Stouts, too. Originally an English specialty Porter Stout, and later mastered and given notoriety in Ireland by the Guinness family, this style of beer has evolved and spread abroad. However, the term stout, in its infancy did not indicate the stouts we know of today. After some time, as with most words, it was generally associated the a darker beer, and the “porter” gradually fell off the name. Thus we have the Stout.

If you want to read an in-depth and complex look at the history of Stout check out these two articles on Serious Eats and Zythophile.

Nutritional value
Yes, besides the deliciousness of that is the stout, it also has many health benefits.  According to BBC News
a pint of Guinness may work as well as a low dose aspirin to prevent heart clots. And yes, this was tested on animals, WHAT A WASTE!  Now that’s a job description, Lab Animal to test the health benefits of beer.

A basic stout also has fewer calories than lagers, and I even hear… a Lite Beer?  Up to 50 fewer calories. Rumor has it that due to the nutritious ingredients, it can also help in nursing mother’s lactation (this is subject to debate). Stouts even contain anti-oxidants due to the roasting process.

Stouts, as with most beer styles, come in many varieties. Personally, I have tried over 70 different stouts and approximately 6 different styles, as well as other sub-styles.

I remember my first time having a stout, yes it was a Guinness, and I was very surprised. To me, I thought it would be very thick and creamy, and it really wasn’t. It was smooth, and had a slight bakers chocolate flavor. As I continued to expand my palate, Guinness, fell by the wayside. It’s a great beer, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a world of variety.

Here’s a list of a few Styles out there:
Dry Stout
Oatmeal Stout
Sweet Stout*
Foreign Extra Stout
American Stout
Russian Imperial Stout
*Most stouts that are aiming for flavor usually have a lower ABV.

Over the years, a few of these have stood out and I want to share them with you. Here’s my top 6:Black Isle Stout


I hope you have enjoyed this post, and I also hope you enjoy the above list.  Please leave your comments OR any suggestions to try.
Nick @thebarleymen

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