Beer 101: Stouts and porters
In the land of dank, piney, citrusy, hoppy IPAs, other beer styles are sometimes forced to play second fiddle. But as the mercury drops, craft beer fans start leaning towards the dark and sturdy styles of stouts and porters. With profiles including such heavenly notes as chocolate, coffee, caramel and espresso, these two are perfect for cold-weather comfort.
Get a basic know-how and start writing a checklist of must-trys with these stout and porter varieties around San Diego.
The more ubiquitous of the two styles, the stout name derives from the production of porters. Historically, there was a range of porters brewed of varying alcohol strength, and the name “stout” referred to the stronger version. In the hands of American craft brewers, the style has taken off like wildfire.
Irish dry stout: Made world-famous by Guinness, this lighter ABV version has the distinctive character of roasted barley, which lends the dry sensation. Often served on nitro.
Milk stout: This style grabs its name from the addition of lactose, a milk sugar, which lends the beer roundness and a bit of sweetness. Notes may include coffee, milk chocolate and cocoa powder.
American stout: The U.S. version of the classic English stout carries intense roasted malt character, predominant coffee notes, and may include the use of citrusy American hops.
Oatmeal stout: Made famous by Samuel Smith, this style incorporates, you guessed it, oats in the mash. These brews tend to be smooth and round on the palate, with a hint of sweetness, making it a definite people pleaser.
Imperial stout (aka Russian imperial stout): With the highest alcohol content of the bunch, intensity strikes at every sip. These hardcore stouts express notes of dark chocolate, toffee, espresso, nuts, caramel, spice and dried fruit. Note: RIS was named for imperial stouts produced and exported from England to the Russian Imperial Court of Catherine the Great (the lady had taste). Imperial stouts may be aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels.
While traditionally lighter in body style, there are some porters that challenge the stout in intensity. Deriving its name from a beer that was popular among English “porters,” the style is characteristic from stouts in its lack of roasted barley character. It shows notes of bitter chocolate, coffee, toffee, caramel, toast and nuts.
While traditional English offerings usually land in the “brown porter” category, American brews often fall in the “robust porter” category with more roasted grain and slightly higher alcohol. American brewers may include coffee, chocolate, or smoked malts to ramp up the flavor.
Baltic porter: A less common, more robust style, originally named for being shipped across the North Sea. Look for caramel, licorice, smoke and dried fruit notes of plums, raisins and currants in this unique porter version.
Imperial porter: An amped-up version of the original, these porters are higher in alcohol and more intense in flavor with roasted malts, cocoa and caramel. Some breweries add adjuncts like coffee and vanilla to increase the profile.
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