The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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The science of alcohol

3.4 Stout

Stout is a type of beer which is commonly very dark in appearance (almost black).

  • Can you name one very famous type of stout?

  • As you saw in Section 1, Guinness is an example of a stout beer. Although many people commonly refer to stout as ‘Guinness’, the name is actually a brand name rather than a type of beer in its own right.

The colour of stout originates from the type of malt used in the fermentation – typically a dark malt is used, in particular black roasted barley which imparts a chocolate/coffee taste to the beer and gives rise to the characteristic dark colour.

Guinness is probably the best known example of a stout. Commercial advertising for the brand typically used the slogan ‘Guinness is good for you’ and, in the 1920s, post-operative patients, blood donors and pregnant women were advised to drink Guinness. Market research in the 1920s suggested that many people felt their health improved after drinking Guinness, but nowadays this is attributed to the high iron content of the stout. Pregnant women are now advised not to drink Guinness because of its alcohol content and the dangers of alcohol to the foetus.

Can you tell how a beer will taste from its appearance? Taste is dependent on both the ingredients of the beer and the process used to make it, and you will learn more about the biology which underlies both taste and smell in Week 3 of this course.

For now, James Clarke from Hook Norton will show you how to taste and appreciate the flavours of some of Hook Norton’s own beer.

Download this video clip.Video player: soa_1_w2_s3_4_vid_clarke_beertasting.mp4
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So now we come to the important bit, arguably one of the most enjoyable bits. We're actually going to taste some beers and look at the different characters and attributes of those beers and relate that back to how they've been brewed and the raw materials, the ingredients that have been used. So the first beer we're going to try is a golden beer at 4.1% alcohol. But before we actually talk specifically about this golden beer, when we're tasting beer, one of the first things that we want to do is we want to look at colour because we've got this huge range of colours from the palest lagers right through to the darkest, blackest stouts. So we take in the colour. Then we're going to take in some of the aroma. So first of all, sniff. And then what we need to do is put our hand around the glass, a hand on the top-- so a hand around the glass to warm it up slightly, hand on the top to keep some of the volatile aromas in. And give it a little swirl and then up to the nose, and you'll find that will release more of the aromas. Now, this is a pale beer. It has all pale ale malt in it. So there's none of the highly roasted darker malts in it. And that's how we get this lovely pale colour of beer. This has two English hops at the beginning of the boiling process, and then it has an American hop with very high citrus aromas added at the end. So you will pick up those piney, citrusy, floral, quite crisp aromas coming through on the beer. And then, of course, the important bit is to taste the beer. But with beer, you have both a taste and an aftertaste. So it's very important that you do swallow. You have different taste receptors around your tongue. But with beer, because it has bitterness, you'll also pick up some flavour on the back teeth, particularly the more bitter beers. So let's try this one. So you get very clean drinking. Some of that floral nose that you get coming through is coming from the taste. It washes down the sides of the tongue. And as you swallow, some of the flavour develops a bit and you just pick up a little bit of that bitterness on your back teeth. So that's a pale beer 4%. We're now going to move on to our next beer, which is what we call a premium ale. It's darker in colour. And this is a beer that does actually have some roasted malt in it. And you'll see that coming through in the colour that we have here. Straightaway you'll see, as the foam just settles out, we've got a much darker beer in terms of colour, sort of deep rich red colour. This beer has three English hops in it. So it doesn't have any of the higher aroma hops in it. And the character of this beer is very much about the malt content in it-- so same again. And as you swallow, you release some of those almost slightly caramely type notes coming from the crystal malt that's been used to brew this beer. But there's only about 7% crystal malt in here. The rest is the pale malt as in the first beer that was 100% of the pale malt. And that's a much, I'd say, probably richer beer, certainly sweeter beer. As a sweeter beer, it tends to hit the front of the tongue a little bit more. And you've got much less bitterness when you swallow. And this is a softer, sweeter beer, and we recommend softer, sweeter beers tend to go with sort of softer, sweeter foods. So a premium ale, sweeter ale, 4.6%, goes very well with something like roast lamb, if you really want to try the flavour mixings. And then we're going to finish up with the third beer. So we've had a very pale beer, and then we've had a sort of nice deep rich red beer. The final beer that we're going to try is a stout. But this beer's actually being dispensed from a keg. So the first two beers were from a cask, and that's why they came through the handpull. This beer's coming from a keg. So it's being dispensed by pressure in that container, pushing the beer up to the tap. And this is a stout. So this has some of the really highly roasted malts in it, some black malt, some brown malt, and this particular beer also has some malted oats. So when we talked earlier, we talked about barley being the main cereal. We also touched on the fact that you can use things like wheat and rye and oat. So this has some oats in it, and oats give a really soft mouth feel to a beer. So from the dark malts in there, you get quite a lot of bitterness, not just from the hops, but from the roasted malts as well. But that's softened slightly by the oat content. If we look at colour, we see we've got a much tighter foamy head. That's because of the method of dispense. We've got a very dark beer. Can't really see through it-- very, very black. And as soon as you sniff, even before you've swirled, you're picking up some of those roasted notes. Then you swirl and you release it, you get a little hint of a vanilla. You get a little bit of almost coffee coming through there. Again, that's from the roasting because the way they roast the grains to get the black malt is very similar to how they roast coffee beans. And this beer, because of this really quite powerful flavour in there from the malts, you get a real mix and explosion, whereas the other two beers followed nicely on the tongue and you could sort of say where the flavour was developing. Initially, with this, you get quite a hit in the mouth, an explosion of that roastiness and as well as a bit of the bitterness from the hops in there. Again, this beer's very much about the malt content, not the hop content. A very dark beer-- you got those roasty notes, bitter coffee. And it leaves the front of the tongue quite dry. But as we always say when you're tasting beer, it's all very subjective, a large part of it. What we're looking to do is you get used to what a particular beer should taste like for you, and then you can do your tastings and see if the product is consistent. So this is a stout. So it's not really an ale because ale tend to be the lighter coloured beers. This is a stout. Very strongly flavoured-- this one's slightly smoother in terms of drinking in the mouth feel than the others, say, coming through from the oats. But the dominant character there is the dark roasted malt content. So hopefully by just trying those three different beers, different colours, but very different styles as well-- the first one was 4.1%, the second one 4.6, and this one's 4.2%. So they're all quite similar alcohol content, but very different in terms of character from the raw materials that we've used to produce them.
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