Enough of anorexic stout

Stout, like many other modern beer styles, seems to have been dumbed down, on average, to broaden its appeal. But there’s a countervailing force, driven by craft brewers and consumers keen to savour the power of this great ale style.

To see the difference between stout-by-name and stout-by-nature, you only have to compare, say, Australian-brewed Guinness on tap and the Dublin brewed Guinness Foreign Extra reviewed below.

The local version is pleasant enough. But if you’re looking for stout’s strong, distinctive roasted malt flavours, mid-palate opulence and assertive hops bitterness, you’re unlikely to find it. I’ve tried periodically without success.

The brewer’s art in making stout is to bring the strong aromas and flavours harmoniously together – to deliver flavour, bitterness, complexity and drinkability. Guinness’s Foreign Extra, to my taste, achieves that deliciously.

But the Rogue Shakespeare Stout reviewed today and Mountain Goat Stout, reviewed two weeks ago, show that good stout has many faces.

And they’re great winter beers as they deliver all that lovely, warming malty flavour best when served at around 10 degrees.

Guinness Foreign Extra (Dublin) 330ml $5.67
Dear Guinness, if you can brew such opulent, glorious stout in Ireland, why can’t you achieve the same in Australia? Or are we just getting what we deserve? This Dublin brew is a benchmark stout – alcoholic, malty, chocolaty and delightfully bitter, but also harmonious and very drinkable.

Rogue Shakespeare Stout (Oregon USA) 650ml $14.85
Rogue, from Oregon, USA, presents a modern but still opulent face of stout. Its vibrant, fresh hops and fruity, estery aroma are novel in such a dark, potent beer. But these give tremendous freshness and vivacity to the underlying deep, roasted-malt flavours and assertive bitter finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009