So, it’s cold out. Like, really realllllly cold out. And while it might be tempting to ride winter out by cozying up to the fire with your favourite bottle of scotch or merlot, we wanted to offer you a fine alternative: stouts.
A History Lesson
The history behind this type of beer is as clear as…well, stout. Porter and stout are quite similar beers—they’ve been intertwined like a page out of the Kama Sūtra since the get-go—making it tricky to differentiate between the two. The first stouts were produced in the early 1700’s, and in their early days were classified as a “stout porter” (just a fancy way of saying “strong-tasting porter”).
Over time, stouts have come to be characterized not only by their strong taste and high alcohol percentage (ABV), but also by their dark colour.
Today, stouts have evolved into complex, delicious varieties, making it a favourite across different tastes. Ever watch an episode of 19 Kids & Counting? Get together like a porter and stout and see how Mother Nature runs it’s course… you may end up with a few more than you can handle – maybe even 19 of them.
Brewed using lactose (the sugar in milk), milk stouts are unsurprisingly creamy and full-bodied. Not the most practical for a serious session, it’s still a delicious beer to get to know.
Feeling brave?: Wellington Chocolate Milk Stout (Guelph, ON).
Like peanut butter & jelly or Bert & Ernie, chocolate and stout are an infamous power couple. Usually brewed with chocolate malt—which ironically leads to more of a caramel and vanilla flavour than a chocolate one—as well as cocoa beans, grounds, nibs or extracts, chocolate stouts are the perfect excuse to crack a cold one after dinner (not that you need one).
If you can get your hands on one, pick up: Flying Monkeys BNL (Barrie, ON).
You might not want to drink one first thing in the morning, but a coffee stout is the perfect kick you need in the evening. Or afternoon. Or…at lunch #SorryNotSorry. Coffee stouts are generally characterized by: a dark roasted malt flavour, slight bitterness (derived from the coffee beans), and often some dark chocolate. If you’re a true Canadian, pair a coffee stout with a few Timbits, eh?
Want to commit a mortal sin? Indulge in: Dieu Du Ciel’s Peche Mortel (Montreal,QC)
Russian Imperial Stout
Traditionally brewed in 18th century London for export to Catherine II of Russia, Russian Imperial Stouts are usually characterized by an ABV of more than 9% and big malt and hop characters. Imperial may as well be synonymous with more; there’s more alcohol, more malt, more hops and more everything in this brew.
Obviously not the most popular variation, oyster stouts are interesting nonetheless. Yes, they are brewed with oysters; typically closer to the end of the boil or in a barrel. Surprisingly, they aren’t characterized by a real oyster taste or aroma (phew) because the salt from the oysters naturally enhances the other flavours in the beer. This gives the whole thing a nice, smooth mouth feel.
Take the plunge: Silversmith Tide & Vine Oyster Stout (Niagara on the Lake, ON).
This is probably the stout that deviates furthest from its beginnings; it’s alcohol percentage is actually lower than the average beer. Session stouts are easy-drinking, low alcohol beers that still are easily identifiable by their dark colour.
Think you can handle more than one? Pick up: Bellwoods Brewery’s Grognard.
New To Stouts?
Yes, we just finished hyping this one up, but it deserves more attention. Grognard is as easy drinking as they come, and to be honest, there aren’t a lot of session stouts out in the world that we’ve come across. With a Grognard you won’t just be getting an easy drinking beer; you’ll also be enrolling yourself in Stout 101, since it will introduce your taste buds to some common threads among the stout family. With light roasted malts, underlying coffee and chocolate and a creamy body, this beer is great for stout-virgins.
Had A Few, Want More From Your Stout:
This variety is an inoffensive but tasty stout that is creamy, dry and true to the Irish Stout style. Light roasted malt and hints of chocolate round out this solid stout. Coffee is actually added during the brewing process mid-boil, resulting in a subtle coffee flavour. You’ll be getting a bit of everything in this beer!
Love Stouts, Had Em All, Give Me Something Different!
Let’s set the scene for you, shall we? This brew is complex and delicious. Imagine, the robust scent of coffee melts into a smooth vanilla coffee taste to start and slowly but surely, your taste buds come alive as the flavour blends into cinnamon and ends with the taste of…cayenne! Wait, what? Yes, cayenne. This might be an overwhelming experience for anyone new to the style, but if you’re look for something out of this world, this is your match made in heaven.