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What is a Stout Beer?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A stout beer is a dark, sometimes bitter beer that was first commercially produced in the 1730s. The first versions of this drink were from Ireland, where the still most popular stout is produced by Guinness. Yet Guinness is only one of the many companies that produce and market stouts.

Stout beer is composed of barley and varied types of malt. Other variants may be made using oatmeal, which usually produces a sweeter beer. There is a large variety in the kind of beers produced this way, and several classifications differentiate one type from another.

Irish stout is the most well known types of this beer, with Guinness being its primary manufacturer. This type of drink is also called a dry stout. Though Guinness is very popular worldwide, many prefer Murphy’s, particularly in Ireland, because Catholics initially ran the company. Guinness was thought of as a Protestant beer.

Imperial stout beer was first made for Catherine the Great, who had a tremendous liking for dark beers. Importation to Russia, however, often ruined the beer. As such, Imperial beer was given a much higher alcohol content to make shipping the product simpler. Storm King’s Imperial Stout is one of the more well known of this type.

Sweet Cream, sweet, or milk stout has an addition of lactose during the brewing process. The result is a much sweeter beer than its more bitter companions. Those who don’t care for dry stouts may prefer Mother’s Milk brewed in New York, or Snowplow from two breweries in Oregon.

Oatmeal stout beer is usually the sweetest of these veers. It is far sweeter than the milk stout because the addition of oatmeal tends to mellow the final results. A couple of popular brands are Samuel Smith’s and St. Ambroise Oatmeal stout, made in England and Canada, respectively.

Coffee stout beer is tends to be darker and more bitter than dry stout. Some brands actually add coffee, but this is considered a non-traditional ingredient. Washington’s Pike Brewery produces one of the more traditional coffee stouts. This drink is related as well to the chocolate stout, which actually uses a chocolate malt. The result is sweet and dark, and may be the perfect combination of rich flavors.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon991395 — On Jun 17, 2015

I like Guinness, also some of the Irish porters and ales.

By Monika — On Nov 30, 2012

@starrynight - All stout beer are definitely not created equal. I'm personally a huge Guinness extra stout beer advocate, but I'm not too wild about oatmeal stout. I guess it's a good thing there are several varieties of stout beer out there.

By starrynight — On Nov 29, 2012

I used to think I didn't like stout beer because the only kind I had tried was Guinness stout beer. Most regular bars don't carry much dark beer other than Guinness, so I always thought it was the only kind.

However, I've gotten into beer a lot more over the last couple of years, so I've tried a lot more variety of beers. I tried an oatmeal stout awhile ago, and I loved it. It wasn't a sour as Guinness, and it tasted faintly sweet. Now I drink oatmeal stout every time I see it on a menu.

By JaneAir — On Nov 29, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I like stout beer too, and I've heard this stereotype many times. There are also a lot of people who think women only like white wine or some kind of fruity cocktail. I feel like this couldn't be farther from the truth, because my female friends have tastes in liquor that are just as varied and "serious" as my male friends do.

By JessicaLynn — On Nov 28, 2012
I'm very interested to see that Catherine the Great liked stout beer so much a new kind was made so it could be shipped to her. I love stout beers myself, and I have a lot of people get really surprised when they see me drink it.

You see, usually people think that girls don't like dark beer. I have no idea where this idea got started, but it's plainly false. As I said, I love dark beer, and I have a ton of female friends who feel the same way.

The next time someone is surprised that I'm female and like stout beer, I'm going to tell them about Catherine the Great and see what they say.

By BostonIrish — On Feb 02, 2011


Yes, I think you can also build up a liking for Guinness if you give it a chance. I used to dislike it greatly until I forced myself to man up and finish one. Now I love Guinness more than other types. There is also a certain prestige to drinking Guinness beer.

By Leonidas226 — On Feb 01, 2011

I find the taste of Guinness and many other stouts to be unbearable. I prefer the softer beers like German hefeweisse. I think it all depends on taste.

By FitzMaurice — On Jan 31, 2011

Guinness has proven itself to be the finest stout, and is a trademark and identifying feature of the Irish nation. The strong flavors of liquors such as Guinness and Whiskey are definitive of the Irish love for strength and endurance.

By SilentBlue — On Jan 29, 2011

Despite what people think, not all Irish Protestants are Scots-Irish. Dublin has always had a lot of upper class Protestants who are Irish natives, and hold no objection to being called Irish and being part of the free and independent nation of Ireland. Unfortunately, the settlement of Ulster Scots and Yorkshire Border Reivers in Northern Ireland is what spawned much of the modern conflict. Guinness should never be thought of as non-Irish or non-patriotic.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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