It’s time for another installment of Beer with Bruce. In honor of the great beer holiday that is St. Patrick’s Day, let’s focus on stouts.
Before we delve into the murky blackness that is stout, let’s dip our toes in a definition… STOUT, adj. 1. courageous; brave; undaunted. 2. a) strong in body; sturdy. b) strong in construction; firm; substantial. 3. powerful; forceful. 4. fat; thickset; fleshy; corpulent. n. 1. A stout person. 2. A garment for a stout person. 3. strong, dark-brown beer, ale, or porter.
Stout, as a style of beer, is a wonderful and surprising mixture of several adjectives in our definition above. As alluded to, stouts are born out of porter. The creation of porter dates back to mid-17th century England, in step with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
The porter style was likely the first combination of dark beer with hops produced for the mass market. Prior to this development, the beer of choice in cities like London was a sweet brown ale. It was with the migration of farmers and country gentry, who tended to prefer hoppy pale ales, to the large cities that a synthesis of sorts took place to form porters. As the advance in technologies born of the Industrial Revolution brought the efficiencies needed for large scale production to be economically viable, porters became the beer for the masses.
As with many styles, porters were brewed at various strengths. One version of a stronger porter was called a stout porter. As the stronger brew gained favor the word porter faded away and the beer was simply called a stout. Many of you may know the world’s most famous stout, Guinness, is quite low in alcoholic strength but certainly of strong flavor. Similarly, Shipyard brews a classic Irish Dry Stout called Blue Fin Stout. While the dark roasted malts used in stouts give this beer its bold and powerful flavor and body, you will find Blue Fin to be a bit richer in mouth feel, with extra roasted coffee, espresso and chocolate character shining through.
Naturally, stouts can also be differentiated by their alcoholic strength; the strongest being Imperial Stouts. The first Imperial Stout was the famed Russian Imperial Stout formulated of higher alcohol to preserve it on its journey from British brewers to the aristocratic market in czarist Russia. This beer, famously favored by Catherine the Great, led to the Imperial moniker. Today the term Imperial is used to denote a beer of high alcoholic content. Shipyard is pleased to be introducing an Imperial Stout as the latest release in the Signature Series, a line of special Shipyard brews of higher alcohol and increased complexity.
If you’ve ever shied away from these dark brews, be brave, be courageous and give them a try. Looking for something even more powerful? Keep an eye out for Shipyard’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout to be released in January.