Dark beers, with their inky good looks and sinister darkness have a way of scaring away those new to the brew. But what is a stout? and what makes it so dark?
Don’t let the color fool you, these gentle giants offer a smooth, malty, drinkability with much lower hop bitterness than their lighter counterpoints. Stouts were born from another dark beer, the Porter. Porters and stouts are both made with grains that have been roasted to a dark blackness, giving them their inky color and toasted flavors. Porters came first, gaining wide popularity across Europe in the 18th century. Once brewers started to tinker with the formula (as they often do) and the ABV (alcohol by volume) was raised, the term Stout Porter was born, referring to a stronger version of a porter. Although over time, the ABV of a dark beer has no bearing on weather a it will earn a stout or a porter designation, it’s no longer part of the equation. For example, a Guinness, the worlds most popular stout, has an ABV of only 4.2%, very few porters are at or below that level.
To this day the differences between stouts and porters are well debated and the lines have been aggressively muddied. For the sake of cooking, stouts and porters are interchangeable. The difference between a stout and porter: what ever the brewer wants it to be. Try not to spend too much time on the differences of stouts and porters, for the most part, it just doesn’t matter.
If you are a coffee drinker, or tend to favor the bourbon, the dark beers should be on your Must Try list. The flavor profiles in a stout often have notes of cocoa, espresso, and spices. They have richness that’s easy to enjoy. Although within the genera, several styles exist.
Imperial Stout (or Russian Imperial Stout): These days the term means a big bold stout, full of larger than life flavors and a higher than average ABV. These are generally sippin’ stouts, made to savor and share. Don’t be afraid of these giant beast, brewers can pack some fantastic flavors in these beers.
Milk Stout (or Sweet Stouts): These are beers made with the lactose from milk, one of the exceptions to the Beer is Vegan rule. The sweetness of the lactose gives a creaminess and a velvety texture to a tall glass of dark brew.
Smoked Porter: The mild hints of smoke in these beers make them great for a cold winters evening by the fire, as well as the perfect braising liquid of a large pork shoulder. This is my go-to style when braising beef or pork, and also adds a meatiness when cooking chicken or mushrooms.
These brownies are a hybrid of the Chocolate Stout Mousse that will be in my cookbook and my favorite brownie recipe. There is a light, mousse like texture and deep richness all over a crispy chocolate shortbread crust.