The stout spectrum — shades of darkness

Two just released beers represent opposite ends of the stout spectrum – the mild and malty five-per-cent alcohol Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout; and the chocolate rich, ten-per-cent-alcohol Wig & Pen Russian Imperial Stout.

Although the new Guinness brew is carbonated, not nitrogenated like the popular draught and canned versions, it sits squarely in the familiar Guinness mould – smooth and easy to drink, but at the tame end of the stout spectrum.

If your tastes are more adventurous there are stouts offering more assertive characters – stronger roasted grain flavours, greater hops bitterness, higher alcohol content (after all ‘stout beer’ originally referred to all higher alcohol brews, not just dark ones) or a combination of these flavours.

The Wig’s Russian Imperial, inspired by a late eighteenth century English style exported to the Russian court, combines high alcohol with equally robust roasted malt and hops bitterness. But it’s not a ‘session’ beer like Guinness. One is probably enough. Very sensibly the Wig serves it only in half pints. And brewer Richard Watkins makes Russian Imperial only in winter, the style evolving each year.

Between the two extremes, though, there’s a world of interesting stouts including ‘session’ brews like Cooper’s and Young’s luscious Double Chocolate Stout.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009