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Stout Beer – An Overview

Stout is one of the world’s most famous drinks – but many people don’t know that they know it.  Why?  Because stout has become synonymous with brand names – most commonly Guinness.  Other famous stout brands also abound, Murphy’s and Beamish being the most common non-Guinness Stouts.

These 3 brands are what is known as ‘Dry Stout’ or ‘Irish Stout’ thanks to their very obvious connection to Ireland, where it is all but the national drink!  But such types aren’t the only variety of stout – indeed there are many more including

  • Coffee Stout (tends to refer to the name, very few use actual coffee)
  • Chocolate Stout (uses real cocoa beans as part of the brewing process)
  • Oatmeal stout (amazingly uses oatmeals in the brewing – tends to be very sweet)

and much more.

Stout Beer

A pint of Guinness Stout

A pint of Guinness Stout

Stout tends to be a very dark, heavy, rich sort of beer – as one would expect from the fact that the malt used to create the beer tend to be roasted.  This cooking of the hops first gives a very rich flavour which has been very popular since the early 18th Century when it was first introduced to England from the Netherlands – and especially from the mid 18th Century when Guinness first started creating the world’s first commercially created stout on any sort of scale.

Whilst Porter (the type of beer form which stouts were originally devised) has fallen out of favour to be replaced by pale ales and bitters (which reside under the catch all banner of ‘ale’) stout has in fact gone from strength to strength.

This is based considerably on the complex flavours that a stout can give.  Even within dry stouts such as Guinness and Murphy’s there is considerable difference in taste – something which is very noticeable once you move outside of the dry stout range and instead try a sweeter flavour from the likes of oatmeal stout.

Because the malt is roasted stout has a taste that is very different from other types of beer – and such a difference has also led to it being suggested as a tonic for all sorts of health issues.  For example pregnant women were often told by the British NHS (National Health Service) to drink Guinness – this was because of it’s high iron content.

History

The stout has a very short history compared to most beers.  First introduced as ‘Porter’ to the UK from the Netherlands in the early 18th Century the recipes were quickly played and experimented with – and soon stout was born.  As a side note although the popularity of Porter didn’t last it was responsible for a lot of taverns opening up – hence the phrase ‘Porter House’.

Ireland was where the Stout was best to make it’s name.  But it was in this divided country that it found itself divided.  Guinness was thought of as being a Protestant drink because it was owned by a Protestant family, whilst Murphy’s was a Catholic drink due to being owned by a Catholic family.

But despite this turbulent separation, or perhaps because of it, Stout became one of the most popular beers in Ireland, and from there it’s popularity was to spread, like the Irish, across the globe.


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