Something to Stout About
Stouts, those dark brews so popular to some and scary to others, tend to be clouded with misconceptions. So here’s the 411. Originally (300 years ago), “stout” referred to a strong beer, regardless of color. It has evolved to be labeled as most dark brews with various styles and strengths, ranging from dry to sweet—or milk. Stouts get that dark color from roasting the grains longer, lending to those bold flavors, commonly coffee and/or chocolate.
Its cousin, the porter, is historically brewed with the same recipes, but brewers drew off more water in making a stout, resulting in stouts being stronger. The term “porter,” generally accepted as dubbed by the hardworking London laborers of the same name, has been used interchangeably with “stout” even today.
Here are five across Virginia we feel will be sure to please:
Mustang Sally Porter
Mustang Sally Brewing Company, Chantilly
6% ABV, 15 IBU
A traditional English porter with rich, roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate-caramel notes, it’s easy to enjoy for someone new to dark beers. Opened in April 2016 with a 30-barrel brew system, a 4000-square-foot tasting room and distributed in 100 restaurants, this filly is already getting a lot of attention.
“Oats McGoats” Oatmeal Stout.
Three Notch’d Brewing Company, Charlottesville
5.5% ABV, 30 IBU
Proving oatmeal is not just for breakfast, this delicious stout took Bronze at the 2014 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup. A “rich and hearty oatmeal stout with a flavor of semi-sweet baking chocolate” describes it best.
Parkway Brewing Company, Salem
A robust and roasty aroma with notes of chocolate, caramel and toffee. Baltic porters are typically higher alcohol, sweet and robust porters that originated in the Baltic states.
Dry Irish Stout (ODIS)
O’Connor Brewing Company, Norfolk
4.5% ABV, 55 IBU
Rich, roasted malt aroma, smooth and velvety on the palate, with a lingering dry finish. It’s one of their flagship brews for a reason. It’s easy to drink year-round, not relegated to chilly evenings by a fire. Awards won: 2016 World Beer Cup Bronze, 2015 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup Silver, 2014 Dublin Craft Beer Cup Silver.
Virginia Black Bear Russian Imperial Stout
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Goochland
9.3% ABV, 78 IBU
The 2016 Imperial Stout has aromas of toasted oats, subtle coffee/chocolate notes and medium-bodied, complex flavors that seduce the palate. Named for the shy black bear that routinely visits the farm, our tour of the working brewery/farm with co-owner Farris Loutfi included a tasting comparison of the 2016 and 2014 bottled beauties. This one delightfully improves with age, and if the 2016 is wonderful, the 2014 is incredible. Get it while you can, and age with anticipation.
Rex and Lisa Hamaker are avid beer advocates and home brewers who operate Taste Tidewater Tours, which features guided coach tours of Virginia breweries, among other venues. They are working on their cicerone certification at press time.