Stout beer, with its inky black color and deep, complex flavors, is a beloved staple in the world of beer. From the dark and creamy classics to the bold and innovative variations, stout beer has a history as rich as its taste. When it comes to stout beers, Guinness often takes the spotlight, especially locally. Even though it is one of my favorite beers and it is still one of the greatest stouts out there, there are other exceptional stouts out there waiting to be discovered.
A Historic Journey
The origins of stout beer are firmly rooted in the historical tapestry of Europe’s brewing heritage. The term “stout” initially described a strong or robust beer, and it emerged from the broader category of porter beers in 18th century Britain.
Porter’s Evolution: As the popularity of porters soared, breweries began producing stronger and more potent versions. These robust, dark brews were initially called “stout porters” but eventually came to be known as “stout” on its own.
Irish Influence: Ireland played a crucial role in shaping the stout landscape, notably with the founding of the Guinness brewery by Arthur Guinness in 1759. The introduction of nitrogen gas in the 1950s gave rise to the iconic Guinness Draught, famed for its smooth, creamy texture and roasted malt flavors.
The Rise of Russian Imperial Stout: During the 18th century, a special version of stout, the Russian Imperial Stout, gained popularity. Brewed with higher alcohol content and extra hops, it was exported to Russia and earned favor with the Russian Imperial Court. Modern interpretations, like Old Rasputin, carry on the tradition of this bold style.
Craft Beer Resurgence: The craft beer movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries breathed new life into stout brewing. Breweries across Europe and the world began experimenting with ingredients, aging methods, and flavor profiles, diversifying the stout category.
The best stouts in Europe
I couldn’t start the list with the most iconic stout in the world… It would have been a crime. An enduring classic, Guinness Draught is renowned for its luscious, velvety texture, roasted malt complexity, and creamy head, setting the standard for Irish stouts. Albeit a commercial beer, it is hand down still one of the very best stouts out there with a remarkable consistency and quality.
Siren Broken Dream
Brewed by Siren Craft Brew in England, Broken Dream is a luscious breakfast stout. It’s characterized by a velvety texture, featuring flavors of rich coffee, chocolate, and oats. It’s a testament to the creativity and innovation of British craft brewers.
Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
Hailing from the UK, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout showcases a silky-smooth texture with notes of toffee, caramel, and a touch of dark fruit. It’s a fine example of an English stout.
Fuller’s London Porter
While technically a porter, Fuller’s London Porter deserves a mention for its deep, roasted flavors with hints of coffee, chocolate, and a gentle hop bitterness, showcasing the excellence of English brewing.
Põhjala Brewery’s Öö, an Estonian brew, is a modern interpretation of the Russian Imperial Stout. It boasts intense notes of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a warm alcohol finish, showcasing the European craft beer renaissance.
Stout beer’s history is a testament to the enduring appeal of this style, which has evolved from the early days of British brewing to become a worldwide favorite. The modern craft beer revolution has brought forth a diverse range of stouts, each with its own unique character. Whether you prefer the classic Irish stout or enjoy exploring the depths of Russian Imperial Stouts, there’s something out there to satisfy every beer enthusiast’s palate.