Indy Beer Sleuth (Rick Burkhardt) Discusses the History and Development of the Stout Beer
Stouts and Porters
Just like the India Pale Ale, stout beers were developed in England several hundred years ago, though there still remains some debate about its exact history. However, one thing that is clear. Stouts, though more popular today, are the younger sibling of the porter.
Porters were hugely popular in London, England after its development in the 1720’s, apparently named after its working class street and river porters. The liquid nourishment was also an effective way for the workers to carb-load back in the day.
Porters were brewed originally with 100% brown malt and mashed several times to extract as much of the sugar as possible. Porters and “stout porters” were brewed with the same recipe but with various amounts of water that produced different end results. “Stout porters” were the strongest of those porters and over time, the two terms morphed together.
From tea to the Beatles, England’s taxation system escaped no one, including beer. A progressive tax was placed on beer going from mildest to “strong”, though brewers sought many methods to get around it.
In the 1770’s, science got involved with thermometers and hydrometers, and brown malt was discovered to be an inferior product because of it having less fermentable sugars. Though more expensive, pale malt became the new base malt for porters and several different methods were obtained to get the right color. The beer was brewed with varying degrees of darkness but it wasn’t until later that black beer appeared.
Because of war and financial woes, England passed their own Reinheitsgebot-type law in 1816, and further taxed malts or its production. This created a new problem for brewers in how to get the proper color but to the rescue was “black malt”, invented in 1817. This then became the preferred malt since it gave beer the necessary color as well as providing a roasted characteristic.
Flash back to late 1700’s Ireland where Arthur Guinness brewed ales at his St. James Gate brewery and where he later switched to brewing the more popular porter beer. Getting taxed on the beer (and everything else), the Guinness brewery later decided to brew with the new black patent malt. This new, distinctive flavor and “stout” perception, was a hit with Irish drinkers and those beyond, so much so that Guinness became the largest brewery in Europe by the end of the 19th century. While stouts continued to flourish into the 20th century, porters suffered a slow and unfortunate death until being resuscitated in the 1970’s.
Types of Stouts
Stouts have long faced a sort of discrimination, forever to be judged by its perceived weight or color of its body. Perhaps you’ve heard a friend say, “I don’t like stouts, they’re too heavy.” What they should know is that stouts are a diverse bunch and you can find them light and easy drinking as well as big and boozy.
Irish stouts (about 4-5% ABV) are the stout standard which you will find to be drier and more roasted than sweeter English and/or American stouts (5-7%).
Milk stouts are created by adding lactose, giving it sweetness and body, and oats gives Oatmeal stouts smoothness to the body.
Imperial stouts, also known as Russian Imperial stouts, usually range above 9% ABV.
Chocolate and Oyster stouts are also very popular variations.
While stouts are the offspring of porters, a roasted finish in stouts and a chocolate presence in porters generally defines the difference between the two.
Why We Chose Stouts: Head Brewer Eilise Lane Discusses Scarlet Lane’s Passion for Stouts
At Scarlet Lane, we have chosen Dorian Stout to be our flagship beer, a canvas of which changes periodically. The decision to lead with a stout was one of the very first plans of Scarlet Lane. While traveling in Bend, Oregon, Eilise Lane (CEO and Head Brewer) drank one of Tonya Cornett’s stouts at Bend Brewing that changed her life. This particular stout sparked an interest in actually making beer instead of just drinking it, now fast forward, and stouts were soon being brewed in Eilise’s Eugene, OR kitchen.
As the plan developed to launch an Oregon-inspired brewery in Indiana, the stout idea evolved into a rotating flagship called Dorian Stout. “Stouts are fun to play with and you have lots of options with ingredients that fit within the beer’s profile”, says Eilise. For instance, Dorian Stout with Coconut uses mounds of actual toasted coconut to provide its unique flavor.
Taken from Oscar Wilde’s (Eilise’s favorite author) book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, Dorian is the perfect name for this rotating idea, as it is ever-changing and re-discovering itself. It is the perfect complement to sitting down with an Oscar Wilde book.
“The Indiana water lends itself to brewing stouts and with some small tinkering, we can create stouts that are approachable for all beer drinkers, all year,” Lane says.
Born from citizens rising up against unfair taxation, stouts have an interesting, yet misunderstood history. We love that Dorian is our best-selling beer, and that we can be a part of this history along with other Indiana-brewed stouts.