Friday, 2 January 2015

More Stouts Please


Porters seem very fashionable these days and when we talk of fads (or trends if you like) in beer, there is IPA, saisons, sours etc. but you do see an awful lot of porters. Or a lot of awful porters -  but they rarely seem to get a mention.  Now I like stouts and though the line between a porter and a stout can be a blurry one, I tend to subscribe to the view that porters are sweeter and less roasty and stouts are bitter and include much more by way of roasted barley.  They should also in my view at least, be hoppier, particularly with a bit of hop resin to finish. It counters the other flavours within the beer and makes you want more. Stouts too should be full of mouthfeel. Nice and thick.

When I brewed a stout with Allgates Brewery some time ago - with others - we wanted to produce a stout that ticked all these boxes and I believe we did though perhaps we could have got more of a resinous finish. But that's probably just me.  Yesterday I tried JW Lees Archer Stout - one of their seasonal beers and just released yesterday.  Now Archer Stout is named after those Middletonians that went to Flodden Field in 1513 to fight the Scots. Their weapon was the bow and arrow, hence Archer Stout.  Their feats are commemorated in our local Parish Church here in Middleton by a venerable stained glass window, reputed to be the oldest war memorial in the world.  (A war memorial has to have the names of those that fought). I have seen it and it is rather fine, as is the (partly) Norman Parish Church. Worth a visit if you are ever in this neck of the woods and in need of culture.

But what about the beer, not those misguided souls that killed so many innocent Scotsmen? Well the brewery describes it thus: "A ruby/black beer made with five different malts and Target hops to a roasted molasses nose and a roast chestnut and liquorice taste." It weighs in a 4.6% and it has been some years since it was last on Lees seasonal list, though its brewing origins go back to 1951. I remember though it as a bottled sweet stout of much more modest strength. It disappeared when Lees stopped doing their own bottling a good number of years ago.

Yesterday at the Tandle Hill Tavern, in atrocious weather, I went to try some.  John, the landlord greeted me warmly and around me were many trying this dark brew. "It's going well" said John.  The beer is rich and dark, with a bitter-sweet taste that melts into a roasty, liquorice middle and a fairly short finish.  I didn't detect the chestnuts, but it was a good beer, with enough body and taste to make you want a second. I could have done with my favoured resinous, hoppy finish, but you can't have everything. It is a very decent stout and I reckon it will do well judging by the positive reaction in the THT.

It was served through a tight sparkler to give a tight, creamy head and trust me, it had condition. 

The previous seasonal, Plum Pudding is though to me the pick of Lees seasonals. Glad to say they are now making them so much different in taste to the bitter and it is telling in excellent sales. I have nagged them on this point over the years, so claim, if not credit, foresight.


24 comments:

John Clarke said...

I think historically the only difference between a stout and a porter was the strength.

Tandleman said...

Probably. But now I reckon that's not so.

Cooking Lager said...

Amber gold and black is the geekery bible, and from that their was a difference back when Tandy was a lad, before it kicked off with the Germans, all was black and white and people ate "dripping". These days the book says the terms are marketing. Porter if you want to suggest tradition and an old style to geeks, Stout if you want to sell something most punters understand.

StringersBeer said...

Ah, the porter / stout thing. Explored somewhat "lightheartedly" over here.

"Stout" is quite a broad church, isn't it? I'm sure there's a fair bit of overlap between "porters" and some porter-like stouts. But I'd say some (eg) "Dry Stouts" and (eg) "Milk Stouts" aren't a bit like we might expect "Porters" to taste.

I suspect that the influence of that Irish stout (as well as various home-brewing books) has, as much as anything else, lead to Roast Barley rather a stout-thing rather than a porter-thing. But mainly in the dry rather than sweet stouts.

I'm not convinced that a stout need have a particularly "full mouthfeel". I like a fairly light-bodied, drinkable stout myself.

Nowadays of course, strength has little to do with it. Although you'll see more strong stouts than strong porters. Probably. Change is history too.

Tandleman said...

I wasn't trying to define them. I know the historical bit but nowadays.........

To me thin stout is Porter. Ymmv..

StringersBeer said...

Wasn't presuming to educate you, Mr T. I'm agreeing w/ you. Pretty much.

Tandleman said...

No worries Jon. Didn't think you were. Happy New Year.

Ed said...

It's a shame we don't see more cask stout, as it's great stuff. Hard to sell to pubs though, particularly when the sun's out.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

The difference is in your last paragraph.
I can't imagine any stout being poured through a tight sparkler.
It reminds me of a pub in Central London decades ago where I watched an Australian barmaid working her first shift pour a pint of Guinness into a glass at least a foot below the tap and letting it keep on overflowing and overflowing.
" What are you doing ? " I asked in bemusement.
" Trying to get rid of the head because I've been told Londoners don't like one on their pint. "

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

I reckon there is more difference within the styles than between the styles and hence there is no meaningful difference .

Paul Bailey said...

There’s a fine line between porters and stouts, and it’s often hard to know where to draw it. Stout is the abbreviation for “Stout Porter” and by definition should full in body (higher gravity?), and often more bitter in nature.

The Irish, of course, made dry stout into a style of their own, and the incorporation of un-malted roast barley into the grist adds bitterness, colour plus dryness to the beer which is characteristic of the style. As we know, porter as a style was virtually extinct in the British Isles by the mid-20th Century, only to be revived by a handful of micro-breweries in the wake of the so-called “real ale revolution”. It is now a very popular style, and has probably eclipsed dry stout in terms of availability.

You know all this, of course TM, and I am only repeating the information to try and get a handle as to why porter is now much more popular than stout. I think your assessment is correct in that porters are often sweeter with less roasted barley flavour, and quite often less bitterness as well.

Not everyone appreciates “harsh” bitter flavours, and this may explain why porter will sell better than its stout cousin. I know from my own experience, back in our real ale off-licence days, that we often struggled to shift a cask of stout, whereas a porter would literally fly out the door! Perception also plays a role here, and I am guilty of this myself as I am often reluctant to try a stout, whereas if I see a porter on sale I will invariably plump for it.

I think John Clarke’s assessment is historically correct, and I also agree with Kieran’s comment that there is often more difference within the styles than between the styles. Not sure what the answer is, but it would be an interesting experiment to try selling a beer with the aforementioned “stout” characteristics under two different names (porter and stout), side by side and see which sells the most.

py said...

People think of stouts as being foul thick "creamy" filth like guinness or any other beer ruined with a sparkler/pumped via nitro (basically the same effect).

Porters are popular because people feel confident they're actually going to get a decent beer and not some thick creamy muck that only bares a passing resemblance to beer.

Tandleman said...

In your opinion you might have added.

But you are a dope.

John Clarke said...

Nothing beats a little light trolling on Saturday afternoon Tanders - and we can always rely on py for that.

py said...

You wanted to know why porter was increasing in popularity whereas stout wasn't, I was kind enough to explain it to you. Clear from the comments that no-one else had figured it out. Perhaps when you're a old camra bloke and only hang out with other old camra blokes, the outside world seems strange and inexplicable.

Take it or leave it.

Tandleman said...

Py. The problem is that you carry such a weight of trolling and ad hominem baggage with you that when you make a point which may be valid, it is likely to be overlooked midst the insults.

If you want to be taken seriously then you need to start again.

Take that or leave it.

py said...

Your loss. Continue to live in ignorance. I don't think I've ever trolled you, you need to think again. Perhaps you're confusing me with the ultimate angry old irrelevant man, aka John Clarke?

Tandleman said...

Damn. You are right. I've been mixing the two of you up for ages. My apologies.

Hey Clarke. Lay off and get a life.

Anonymous said...

py, like the man said, you dope.

Clarkey's a legend. You're a silly sausage.

JC

John Clarke said...

Good to see py reverting to type. The thing that really amuses me about him is that while I always post under my own name he always hides behind a pseudonym.

py said...

more boring insults. If you have nothing constructive to add John, simply don't post.

John Clarke said...

Not an insult old boy merely an observation (and I shall continue to post regardless).

Ian Worden said...

Going back to the early 70s when I was a student, Guinness was known as 'road tar' and drunk as much for bravado as taste, at least by students. It was a revelation to go to Ireland for the first time in 1980 and find how much more pleasant the Dublin Guinness was - I later discovered that the then bottle conditioned version tasted similar if de-carbonated by shaking the bottle, which needs to be done carefully in a crowded pub. In the early 90s I went to Dublin regularly on business and remember on one occasion when going for a drink with my hosts that they very apologetically warned me that Dublin Guinness had been down-graded so it now tasted like the English version. I think it was downgraded further a few years ago and the last pints I tried in London were so sweet and awful that I won't waste my money on it anymore. A sad end to what was once a classic.

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