When I think of certain beers we serve here at the Black Creek historic brewery, they each remind me of a different time of year. Our darker beers like our historic Stout and Porter make me think of rainy spring days and cozy fall afternoons. Lighter beers like our Pale Ale and Best Bitter remind me of hot summer days, when the village is sunny and bright. We’ve been lucky here in Toronto, and an early spring has arrived in February. It’s warm and sunny, but still chilly enough that i’m still in the mood for a darker beer. Hopefully you are too, as our flight lineup on opening day will include our dark and rich historic take on a stout.
The dark, opaque look of a stout can be a little intimidating. I’ve had visitors to the brewery look at me hesitantly, remarking that they only like light beers. Most of the time, they take their first sip and change their minds immediately. Stout is a much more complex, interesting beer than you may think. Not only in taste and richness, but also in its history!
Down in the Black Creek brewery, we describe a stout as “a porter gone mad,” and for good reason. The story of stout begins with the porter, which is a similarly dark and malty beer. The porter was an extremely popular beer in England in the 18th century, especially among the working class who needed to replenish energy and calories through drinking beer. Porters became so popular that many different breweries popped up to accommodate the demand, each with their own twist on the style. These new takes varied in color, richness, and alcohol content. Brews that were higher in alcohol were noted to be stronger – often called “stout porters.”
While the word “stout” has fallen out of our 21st century vocabulary, it is still typically defined as a synonym for strong, bold, or powerful. This makes perfect sense – stout porters were a stronger and bolder twist on the traditional porter brew. As time went on, “stout” and “porter” became differentiated as two similar but distinct styles of beer. It is still debated what separates one from the other, but it is mostly accepted that a stout tends to have more of a roasted, coffee-like taste than a porter. They also tend to be much darker in color, almost opaque. At the Black Creek historic brewery, our porter has a milder, slightly nuttier taste than our stout. Our stout has more of a rich coffee and roasted grains taste, while our porter is less intense and more on the sweet side of bittersweet. Our porter also has ruby tints when held up to light, while our stout is a very inky black color.
The classification of “stout” has become associated with one beer brand – Guinness dry Irish stout. The popularity of Guinness has made its brand name almost synonymous with stout. The Guinness brewery’s take is what most people have come to expect from the classification. Guinness beers tend to be creamy, rich, and even slightly syrupy. Fans of paler, lighter beer may shy away from trying a thicker, darker style. However, not all stouts are creamy and thick – our Black Creek stout is very light in body and mouthfeel while maintaining the traditional roasted coffee-like stout taste associated with the style.
Stouts are seen as the most hearty of all the beer styles. Our brewmaster describes some stouts as a meal in a glass, or a beer you can have with a spoon. It is even believed that a stout’s hearty consistency gives it healing properties. It is said that nursing women in Ireland were “prescribed” a pint of Guinness to renew their strength and iron levels after breastfeeding. While the medical validity of this claim is highly questionable, many still believe that a stout is more nutritious or healthy choice than any other beer. While darker beers do contain slightly more iron than lighter ones, it is not enough of a discrepancy to really make any noticeable difference in your health to pick one style over another.
Either way, we can all agree that a stout is an excellent choice for a spring beer. Don’t forget, our opening day here at Black Creek Pioneer Village is April 28th. The historic brewery will be open from 1:00 to close, so come drop by and try our take on a stout.
Hops to you,