Now that Guinness has opened the Open Gate brewery in Baltimore County, Maryland and winter is upon us, we thought it was time to take a look at the popular cold weather brew that Guinness is most famous for:  the stout.  This week on Beer Notes, we are exploring the origins of stouts.

In 1759, Guinness opened their St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland and by 1769 he was exporting his porters to England.  There were different strengths of porters, and the stronger the beer, the more stout it was.  In 1820, Guinness changed the name of his Extra Stout Porter to simply Extra Stout, thus introducing the new style of beer.  In the 20th Century, stouts overtook the porter, in popularity.  Roasted barley gives the beer is dark color, intense flavor of chocolate and espresso and the “drying sensation” when tasted.  When the tap system exchanged nitrogen with some of the CO2, this created a completely different drinking experience.  The bubbles are smaller, creating the famous head and creamy mouth-feel of Guinness and other nitro brews.

The Irish dry stout is relatively low in alcohol making it a responsible and low calorie alternative.  The style has not remained stagnant however.  Brewers have experimented over the centuries with sweeter stouts like the milk stout, stouts with oatmeal, and even the imperial stouts, high in alcohol and flavor and favored by the court of Catherine the Great in Russia beginning in the 1780s.  This London export stout to Russia claimed an ABV of 12%

Whether you like dry or sweet, low alcohol or not, stouts are perfect for savoring in front of a roaring fire as the days shorten and winter descends.

Jessica Bauer
Author: Jessica Bauer

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