All About Stouts

sam adams coffee stout

“Stout” is a beer style that in my opinion is greatly misunderstood. People often think that these dark beers are more potent, yet a pint of Guinness actually has less alcohol than a Bud. Speaking of Guinness, many people find it to be the end all, be all of stouts. It’s actually a great beer but it’s just one little part of the stout story. Stouts can be dry, sweet, flavored, hoppy or strong. There are tons of variations on the style. They share the commonality of a roasted flavor characteristic (because they’re made with roasted barley that has been kilned until it resembles burnt toast, instead of being malted) but that flavor can range from bitter unsweetened chocolate to coffee-like. If you want to expand your knowledge of the various kinds of stouts, read on and discover the differences that distinguish one dark beer from the next. 


  • Dark almost black in color
  • Heavily roasted flavor profile
  • The darkest member of the ale family

Dry Stout

  • Rich and dark
  • Definitive bitter note and drying palate feel
  • Closely associated with Ireland (specifically Guinness)
  • Nitrogen flushed
  • Classically paired with oysters
  • Popular with US microbrewers

Sweet Stout (aka, Milk or Cream Stouts)

  • Typically a British specialty
  • Distinctive sweetness to the palate
  • Show chocolate and caramel flavors
  • Obtain their sweetness from the use of chocolate malts and lactic sugars during the brewing process

Oatmeal Stout

  • A variation of a sweet stout
  • Made with oats instead of roasted malt (enhances body and mouthfeel)
  • Highly flavorful with a velvety texture and a hint of sweetness
  • Brewed by the British back when stouts were considered a nutritious part of the everyday diet (the beginning of the century)
  • Style revived by Samuel Smith in 1980 and is now very popular

Flavored Stout

  • Any stout with additional flavors added
  • Dark fruits, coffee and chocolate flavored are most popular
  • The marriage of flavors should at best be greater than the sum of its parts

Strong Stout

  • A stronger version of a dry stout (ABV between 5.7 and 7.5%)
  • Initial malt sweetness leads to a dry and balanced finish
  • Coffee-like roasted barley is evident in the aroma and a full bodied mouthfeel is common
  • Fruity esters are practically non-existent

Imperial Stout

  • The EXTRA strong version of stout
  • Dense, opaque black
  • Strong in alcohol content (6-7% or higher)
  • Burnt cocoa and dried fruit flavors are typical
  • Originally brewed for Russia and the Baltic states
  • Typically a winter specialty

Next time you’re craving a stout and you feel inclined to go for the Guinness, just remember that there are other beers out there. 

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