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Stouts & Porters
Depths of Darkness for the Depths of Winter

Posted: February 27, 2014

By Thomas Sulinski

Each year Tastings.com’s World Beer Championships is brought to a close with our annual stouts and porters review. From dark brown to black in color, these beers feature flavors and aromas ranging from dark fruit to chocolate and coffee. While some stouts and porters may be one-dimensional, only highlighting simple roasted malt driven flavors and aromas, the truly great examples are able to hold the drinker captive, able to leave drinkers with more words than chocolate or coffee as descriptors. The great examples leave us with a new vocabulary, a vocabulary that may only be found in the depths of the darkness.

While the origin of both stouts and porters is intrinsically tied to England, these styles have long expanded beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. Carrying surnames such as Baltic, Russian and American, these beers are only a few of the styles making up the larger categories we now think of as stouts and porters. While visually each take on the style may appear similar, any similarity ends here. Variance in the roast level of the malt, addition of hops and original gravity can all greatly affect the final beer. Even amongst individual sub-styles there is plenty of difference with many brewer’s adding their own individual signature to the final beer.
Some brewer’s take the most creative license when brewing flavored stouts and porters. Generous additions of cocoa nibs, roasted coffee beans, vanilla and red fruits are among the most common flavoring agents found in a brewer’s arsenal, but by no means is this short list comprehensive. Ranging from jasmine to cinnamon and coconut to peanut butter, the only limiting factor is a brewer’s creativity. Top flavored stouts and porters this year included Caldera Brewing Company’s Mogli Imperial Porter (96 points), Epic Brewing Company’s Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout (95 points), Rogue Ales Double Chocolate Stout (94 points) and James Page Brewing Co.’s Casper White Stout (94 points).

This session also included both barley wine and winter ales. While barley wines may be identified as either American or English in style, our winter ale category is much broader. This category includes both spiced and non-spiced versions of the style as well as beers commonly referred to as winter warmers. Top scoring barley wines this year included Stone Brewing Co.’s 2013 Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale (98 points), Moylan’s Brewing Co.’s Old Blarney Barleywine (93 points) and Stevens Point Brewery’s Whole Hog Barley Wine Style Ale (92 points), while standouts in our winter ale category included Full Sail Brewing Co.’s Pub Series Wassail Winter Ale (93 points), Lancaster Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer (92 points), Quidi Vidi Brewing Co.’s Winter Ale (91 points) and Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale (91 points).

While some of the beers found in the following pages may only be available at the whims of a season, many more may be found year round. A world of flavors and complexity awaits, and we hope you’re able to find a guide, if even only for a little while, to help you explore the depths of the darkness. Cheers!

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