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Dark Ales

Submitted by on January 9, 2010 – 2:39 PMOne Comment
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For a beer to be called an ale it must be brewed with malted barley using a top-fermenting brewers’ yeast. This yeast ferments the beer quickly which gives it a sweeter, full bodied and sometimes fruity taste. Dark ales are brewed using dark-roasted barley malts and tend to be thicker and creamier in texture and stronger and sweeter in taste than traditional ales.

There are two predominant types of dark ales: stouts and porters. Historically, there are no differences between stouts and porters. However, many breweries will differentiate between the strengths of their darker ales by use of the term “stout” to indicate a darker and stronger porter. The name “stout” for a dark beer came about because a strong porter may be called “Extra Porter” or “Double Porter” or “Stout Porter,” which is typically shortened to simply “stout.”

Porter: Porters originated in Great Britain and were brewed with 100% brown malt. However, in the early 1800s brewers began to craft porters using 95% pale malt and 5% patent malt which is an almost black malt used primarily for coloring. Most London brewers continued to use some brown malt for flavor, though. Porter-style beer nearly became extinct until its microbrew revival of the late 1970s. Porter’s falling out was strongly due to the rise in popularity among Irish Stout Porters, a name which called for a stronger variety of porters and was eventually shortened to be known as simply “stouts.” Brews such as Fuller’s London Porter and American revivals such as Sierra Nevada Porter and Anchor Steam’s Anchor Porter have helped keep the porter name alive even today.

Stout: The term stout was coined centuries ago to describe a darker, stronger porter. Irish and Russian stouts originally rose to popularity at a time when English porters were on their way out and pale ales were the trend of the times.

Ÿ  Dry Irish Stout: The best known stout in the world today is brewed by Guinness of Ireland. Guinness’ Extra Stout has been brewing for over 300 years. Although the Dry Irish stout was the original form, many different varieties of stouts are available for tasting today.

Ÿ  Chocolate Stout: Chocolate stouts are typically named as such because the beers have a noticeable dark chocolate flavor due to the use of chocolate malt, a malt that has been roasted until it achieves darker chocolaty color. Occasionally, stout beers are also brewed with a small amount of actual chocolate, as is the case with beers like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Rogue Ales’ Chocolate Stout.

Ÿ  Coffee Stout: Coffee Stouts are usually brewed using the darkest available malts, like black patent malts, in order to achieve a bitter coffee-like taste. Many breweries, such as Long Trail Brewing Co. will add real coffee grounds to the mash in order to produce a more realistic coffee flavor. Long Trail’s Coffee Stout is brewed organically with 100% certified fair trade organic coffee grounds.

Ÿ  Imperial Stout: Imperial stouts are often referred to as Imperial Russian Stouts due to their history. The origins of this dark, strong stout date back 18th century by Thrale’s brewery in London for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. Imperial stouts typically contain noticeably higher volumes of alcohol than other stouts, usually peaking at nine or ten percent ABV. Samuel Adams brews their Imperial Stout at 9.6% alcohol, and Eel River Brewing Co.’s Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout is brewed at 9.5% ABV.

Ÿ  Milk Stout: Milk stout, also known as sweet stout or cream stout, is a beer that contains lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Lactose adds sweetness, body, and calories to the finished beer and milk stouts were actually once considered to be healthy enough to feed to nursing mothers. Milk stouts are usually not as dark as most other stouts, but still offer a mid-level alcohol content and a thick, creamy and lowly-carbonated texture. While milk stouts never reached the popularity that Imperial or Irish stouts achieved, beers such as Keegan Ales’ Mother’s Milk still brew milk stouts today.

Ÿ  Oatmeal Stout: Oatmeal stouts are brewed with the addition of real oats to the process, usually maxing out at 30% oats. Oatmeal stouts are particularly smooth and full-bodied due to the fats and proteins that accompany the oats. Blue Point Brewing Co. of Long Island, NY brews their oatmeal stout with pale, crystal, chocolate and roasted malts along with flaked oats.

Ÿ  Oyster Stout: The idea behind oyster stouts has been around for centuries. In the eighteenth century oysters were a very common bar food item, generally paired accordingly with heavy stouts. Oysters were first actually used in the brewing process in 1929 in New Zealand. Today, oyster stouts are hard to come by, but they are still brewed around the world. Arbor Ales Oyster Stout of Bristol is brewed with seven different grains, including oats, wheat and roasted barley. Fresh oysters, shells and all, are added to the boil during the last fifteen minutes of brewing time.