With St.Patrick’s day festivities just around the corner, I cannot think of a more appropriate time to write a stout style guide. No other beer style is personified by a single beer, or rather a single brewery as much as stout.
Stout popularity was achieved nearly single handedly by one man, Arthur Guinness. The name Guinness, as relevant to the beer world, first emerged in 1759 when Arthur Guinness leased a defunct brewery in Dublin. Although Guinness attempted several ales in their early days, they soon decided to focus on one single type of ale most popular at the time and thus, began brewing porter. After decades of successful brewing, Guinness ales gained popularity in England and West Indies and expanded their product line to feature distinct types of porters that would be referred to as “stouts.” Even though the term “stout” was first recorded in the 1630s in reference to strong dark ales, the name was not truly popularized until the invention of Daniel Wheeler’s over malt and barley roasting process, thus allowing more precision when creating the beer’s roasted flavour.
Stouts are a close relative of porters. In fact the relationship is so close that at times it is difficult to tell where porter territory ends and stout begins. One of the more distinct differences between the two styles is that stouts, especially classic stouts commonly referred to as Irish Dry Stouts, are very dry and exhibit a distinct espresso-like bite achieved by roasting barley rather than using roasted malt. Stouts are always very dark, often pitch black with a roasted aroma of coffee beans, roasted barley and chocolate. On the other hand, classic stouts are, surprisingly enough, very light and frequently are the lightest beer you can order on tap.
Porter is one of the most complicated styles of beer to describe. I’m pretty sure that is because Porter was originally a mix of several beer styles. Similar to how you might order a mixed drink or a martini at the bar, imagine that you asked the bartender to mix a few taps for a highly customized brew. This may sound weird to you now, but in London via the 1700s, mixing different ales was all the rage and bartenders would mix as many as five different ales at the request of their customers. This trend kept up until brewer Ralph Hardwood analyzed popular combinations and came up with a brew that mimicked the most popular three-beer mix known as the “three threads.” Ralph Hardwood’s new mix was a strong, dark and tasty brew that received the name Mr.Hardwood’s Entire and eventually became the single most popular brew in London. This style of beer became very popular with a particular group in London’s working class, the dock workers, or “porters.” In time, the beer became associated with the group of people that enjoyed it the most and thus became known as “porter beer” or simply porter.
At the peak of its glory, porter was so popular that it was possible for a brewer to make a fortune just by making porter and giving up all other styles. Eventually the fame of this beer reached beyond London and even outside of England with porter breweries opening up in Dublin, Glasgow and all over the British Isles. Arthur Guinness, who is most known for his stout, was the brewer that made porter popular in Ireland and made a fortune doing so. Porter expansion didn’t end there; it went on to take hold in Baltic Sea countries such as Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Poland eventually evolving into its own style called Baltic Porter, featuring a higher alcohol content typical for beer enjoyed in colder climates.
Although porter has not yet achieved the level of popularity it enjoyed back in England, a few brewers in North America have also taken up brewing this style as it was a favourite of many British colonists. Unlike many other styles of beer brought from the Old World, Porter did not evolve into anything distinct in North America. Once Lager and Pilsner became the next big thing in the world of beer, porter popularity dwindled everywhere and eventually porter became less of a crowd pleaser and more of a treat for the gurus.
As the holiday season approaches, some brewers begin to roll out their festive seasonal brews just in time for your celebrations. One of such brews is Bockbier, or simply Bock, which is the German translation for “strong beer.” The name Bock relates to the German city of Einbeck, from which this beer emerged in the fourteenth century. Bockbier became famous throughout (and beyond) Germany to a point where the neighbouring German states grew jealous of Bock’s success. In fact, the degree of jealousy was so strong that on one particular occasion a brewmaster from Einbeck was lured into Munich by Duke Ludwig X and forced to share the secret of producing this beer, thus, giving Bavaria the ability to recreate the delicious beer and end Einbeck’s hegemony.
Barley wine is a very strong type of top-fermenting ale, which originated from the Norman-occupied England. When the Normans conquered the Saxons, French aristocracy brought with them many aspects of their culture to England as they considered English culture to be unrefined and barbaric. Along with them, Normans also brought their custom of drinking wine that they imported from back home. Since England was too far north from the wine belt and could not produce wine grapes, ale has remained the drink of choice for Saxons. In time, both Normans and Saxons began to absorb parts of each other’s cultures; the latter have begun to experiment with pale malt and new brews which has led to brewing of stronger and more refined ales differing from traditional British bitter beer. At first these ales were called October Beers, Dorchester beers or simply malt liquor and they eventually settled on the name “barley wine.”
Autumn is the season when the brewing world steps away from light summer ales and brewers start to roll out brews better suited for the colder season. One of such brews is the Pumpkin Ale brew, using *surprise* Pumpkins!
The vegetable is widely used in North American cuisine to make a variety of dishes, including the famous North American desert – pumpkin pie. So, it’s no surprise that pumpkin has found its way into the brewery.
Today we’re going to have a little history lesson about a specialty ale, which is not well-known in Canada…unless you frequent pubs that throw Cask Parties.
So, what the hell is a cask? Literally, it’s just a container in which the beer is commonly stored and conditioned. Typically, it’s a large wooden barrel. In Britain, casks were the primary method for storing beer until 1970s when they were replaced by the well-known, and well-loved metal kegs. By definition, cask conditioned beer, or cask ale, is a
“natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation.” *
The process of preparing Cask Ales is simple:
1. Brew the unfinished product (unfermented and unfiltered beer) at the brewery.
2. Rack it into casks. Unfinished beer casks were then left to condition at the brewery or sent off to the pubs to mature.
3. After some time, the casks are assessed by the brewmaster who examines the beer and determines if it’s ready to be served.