Six Ways to Drink Stout

The weather’s been frigid for weeks. There’s no sign of it letting up. You should probably grab a beer—the heartiest beer of all. Stout.

It’s winter. There is snow outside. Make the indoors your refuge—sit by a roaring fire and enjoy some rich chocolate bars with pints of creamy stout.

This is a vision I share with Drew Larson, the Cicerone Certification Program’s eastern regional exam manager and a member of its content team.

Larson spoke to us about stout: the thick, black, usually opaque, almost dessert-like beer. Generally, he said, stouts are divided into six groups. And though all of them share several common characteristics, each differs in alcohol content, aroma, mouthfeel, and taste.

six-ways-to-drink-stout_text_600c390

Here are those six types of stout, what you should know about each, and where to buy them:

1. DRY STOUT

Larson thinks a good dry stout has an unmalted barley bitterness and rich mouthfeel. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes dry stout as “a very dark, roasty, bitter, creamy ale.”  The beer, which may be thin bodied, gets its dryness from roasted unmalted barley used in the brewing process.

Local options: Sample Three Floyds’ Black Sun stout, available at Archer Liquors (5996 S. Archer Ave.) and Goose Island’s Short Stack, available at either Goose Island brewpub (1800 N. Clybourn Ave.; 3535 N. Clark St.).

2. SWEET STOUT

The BJCP notes that this very dark, sweet, full-bodied slightly roasty ale often tastes like sweetened espresso. Larson sometimes calls these milk stouts, since they often contain lactose sugar. Lactose sugar is generally not fermentable, he said, so it leaves the drink with a residual sweetness.

Local options: Revolution Brewing’s Mad Cow is available at Irving Park Liquor (3976 N. Elston Ave.), and Half Acre Beer Company’s Chocolate Camaro is available at Andersonville Wine & Spirits (5201 N. Clark St.).

3. OATMEAL STOUT

On the sweetness scale, this creamy medium- to full-bodied stout is generally between sweet and dry stouts, the BJCP states. The amount of oatmeal varies, so some may have a more oatmealy aroma than others.

Local options: Pick up a growler of Piece Brewery and Pizzeria’s Flatiron Stout at its brewpub (927 W. North Ave.) or a bomber of Three Floyds’ BackMasking oatmeal stout at Bottles and Cans (4109 N. Lincoln Ave.).

4. FOREIGN EXTRA STOUT

This is “almost like dry stout’s bigger brother,” Larson says. Brewed for foreign markets, it has a higher alcohol content than dry stouts, truly making it a winter warmer. The BJCP notes that though tropical varieties are generally sweet, export versions are usually drier.

Local options: It’s foreign by nature, so good luck finding an American-brewed foreign extra stout. However, you can pick up Lion stout at High Dive (1938 W. Chicago Ave.) and Guinness foreign extra stout at Celtic Crossings (751 N. Clark St.)

5. AMERICAN STOUT

Unlike the others, which offer no hoppy scent, a good american stout has a nice, clean, resiny american hop aroma of pine and citrus, Larson says.

Local options: Head south for these American stouts. Begyle Brewing Co.’s Flannel Pajamas stout is available at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st St.), and Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Co.’s 773 stout is available at its brewpub (10426 S. Western Ave.).

6. RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT

Larson describes this stout as big and rich with chocolate and burnt-coffee notes. The BJCP offers a similar description, pointing out that the full-bodied beer has a velvety texture and noticeable alcohol presence.

Local options: Sip Two Brothers Brewing Co.’s Northwind imperial stout at Hackney’s Printer’s Row (733 S. Dearborn St.) and pick up a bomber of Spiteful Brewing’s GFY stout at Warehouse Liquors (634 S. Wabash Ave.).

Photo credit: Timothy Burkhart, Groupon