The Stout is Out

Hooray, the stout is out! Today marks the annual release of our McMenamins Irish Stout, on tap now through the end of the month.

From the McMenamins brewers themselves: “McMenamins Irish Stout is made as traditionally as possible with our own little twist. It is a very dark, ebony-colored stout with a thick, creamy and long-lasting head. The flavor is a fantastic fusion of coffee-like roasted barley bitterness and semi-sweet chocolate. A moderate hop bitterness balances pleasingly with this hearty backbone, while tiny nitrogen bubbles enhance the sensation on your taste buds with a smooth, silky creaminess.”

This post is making me thirsty.

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And a little background…
The word “stout” used to refer to strong beers in the late 1600s to early 1700s. These were stronger, full-bodied varieties of porters, usually called “stout porters.” Porters originated in London and became extremely popular among the working-class porters (hence the name) – it was cheap, flavorful and didn’t spoil quickly.

However, another theory suggests that the porter style originated in the Netherlands, where a beer known as poorter was being consumed as early as the 14th century, a full 300 years prior to the London version. Either way, porter and poorter were both considered blue-collar beers.

The word “stout” was used to describe strong versions of all different types of beers (i.e., a stout pale ale). But as time progressed, stout was only used to describe porters. Clear as mud.

While the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, was founded in 1759, it didn’t begin brewing and selling its now-famous “porter” (Guinness) until 1778. Originally, Guinness was extremely big-bodied and very strong at 7.5% ABV. (In comparison, today’s smooth and creamy version of Guinness is more of a session beer, coming in at just 4.2% ABV.) The brewery used the expression “stout porter,” eventually shortening it to just “stout.” Along with Guinness, good examples of Irish stouts come from Murphy’s (preferred by Catholics) and Beamish (team Protestant), both based in Cork.

In the 1700s, English breweries from the Baltic began brewing an export stout called the Russian Imperial Stout. This style beer was extremely strong, at a whopping 8-11% ABV, and was sometimes aged for years. Catherine the Great (1729-1796) especially loved her stout (which explains the name) and was notably proud of her tolerance for it. She imported her favorite stouts from England – specifically, Thrale’s Anchor Brewery and John Courage Brewery, both in Southwark in Central London.

Sources:
Lisa Grimm, “Beer Mythbusting: The Truth About Porter and Stout”
Berghoff, “What Makes Beer a Stout?”
BBC News, “The Brewers Taking Stout Back to Russia”

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