Though the origins of Stout beer are in London—insofar as Stout is an evolution of Porter beer—history gives Ireland the credit for introducing Stout to the world. Dating back many thousands of years prior to the 1700s, the Stouts of Ireland were sweet, un-hopped ales—traditional Celtic ales—as Ireland’s cool damp climate was unsuitable for growing hops. Through the 1700s leading up to English rule of Ireland, which began in 1801, England shipped its hopped ales across the Irish Sea to Dublin, thus introducing hopped ales to Ireland.
Ireland’s Arthur Guinness, who had been brewing the traditional un-hopped Celtic ale since the 1750s, switched in the late 1770s to brewing Porter in his brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, in an effort to counter the burgeoning English domination of Ireland’s beer market. Guinness’s first two beers were named X and the stronger XX, later named Extra Porter Stout (strong).*
Sales in Ireland took off, and later Guinness brewed a third, stronger beer named Foreign Extra Porter Stout for export to British colonies. One can easily imagine, in the atmosphere of a busy pub, that the repeated call for an “Extra Porter Stout” would eventually be whittled down to simply saying, “Give me a Stout.” Thus, Stout was born.
*(The word “Stout” is present in variations of these names appearing in different historical accounts).
Guinness’s Stout had a distinct flavor, which perhaps helped the Stout moniker to catch on as a distinct beer from the English Porter beers of the day. A big contributor to the flavor distinction came from the use of unmalted roasted barley used astutely by Guinness instead of malt, which was taxed by England. The roasted barley lent to Guinness’s very dark color and dry, somewhat charred, character compared to the English Porter.
The pint or nonic glass is all you need for a Stout. A beer snifter or large wine glass might be more suitable for bigger, more complex Imperial Stout beer styles. Most important, ensure Stouts are enjoyed with a glass, as all of the aromas and many elements of flavor are lost when drinking from a bottle or can.
As with Porters, give the Stout a firm pour to activate a foamy head and release the aromas. It is also visually appealing to watch the cascade of carbonation inside the glass upon the initial pour, and the formation of the creamy head on top of the beer.
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