Imperial Stout

20C. Imperial Stout

Overall Impression:
An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavor balances and regional interpretations. Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish. Despite the intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.

Aroma:
Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong. The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like. May optionally show a slight specialty malt character (e.g., caramel), but this should only add complexity and not dominate. Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character. Hop aroma can be very low to quite aggressive, and may contain any hop variety. An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour. The balance can vary with any of the aroma elements taking center stage. Not all possible aromas described need be present; many interpretations are possible. Aging affects the intensity, balance and smoothness of aromatics.

Appearance:
Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head. Generally has a well-formed head, although head retention may be low to moderate. High alcohol and viscosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass.

Flavor:
Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness. Medium-low to high hop flavor (any variety). Moderate to aggressively high roasted malt/grain flavors can suggest bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and/or strong coffee. A slightly burnt grain, burnt currant or tarry character may be evident. Fruity esters may be low to intense, and can take on a dark fruit character (raisins, plums, or prunes). Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors. The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet, usually with some lingering roastiness, hop bitterness and warming character. The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.

Mouthfeel:
Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning). Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic; in well-conditioned versions, the alcohol can be deceptive. Should not be syrupy or under-attenuated. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.

Comments:
Traditionally an English style, but it is currently much more popular and widely available in America where it is a craft beer favorite, not a curiosity. Variations exist, with English and American interpretations (predictably, the American versions have more bitterness, roasted character, and finishing hops, while the English varieties reflect a more complex specialty malt character and a more forward ester profile). Not all Imperial Stouts have a clearly ‘English’ or ‘American’ character; anything in between the two variants are allowable as well, which is why it is counter-productive to designate a sub-type when entering a competition. The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity. Judges must be aware of the broad range of the style, and not try to judge all examples as clones of a specific commercial beer.

History:
A style with a long, although not necessarily continuous, heritage. Traces roots to strong English porters brewed for export in the 1700s, and said to have been popular with the Russian Imperial Court. After the Napoleonic wars interrupted trade, these beers were increasingly sold in England. The style eventually all but died out, until being popularly embraced in the modern craft beer era, both in England as a revival and in the United States as a reinterpretation or re-imagination by extending the style with American characteristics.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Well-modified pale malt, with generous quantities of roasted malts and/or grain. May have a complex grain bill using virtually any variety of malt. Any type of hops may be used. American or English ale yeast.
Style Comparison: Like a black barleywine with every dimension of flavor coming into play. More complex, with a broader range of possible flavors than lower-gravity stouts.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.075 – 1.115
IBUs: 50 – 90 FG: 1.018 – 1.030
SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 8.0 – 12.0%

Commercial Examples:
American -Bell’s Expedition Stout, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout; English – Courage Imperial Russian Stout, Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout, Samuel Smith Imperial Stout

American Stout

20B. American Stout

Overall Impression:
A fairly strong, highly roasted, bitter, hoppy dark stout. Has the body and dark flavors typical of stouts with a more aggressive American hop character and bitterness.

Aroma:
Moderate to strong aroma of roasted malts, often having a roasted coffee or dark chocolate quality. Burnt or charcoal aromas are acceptable at low levels. Medium to very low hop aroma, often with a citrusy or resiny character. Medium to no esters. Light alcohol-derived aromatics are also optional.

Appearance:
Generally a jet black color, although some may appear very dark brown. Large, persistent head of light tan to light brown in color. Usually opaque.

Flavor:
Moderate to very high roasted malt flavors, often tasting of coffee, roasted coffee beans, dark or bittersweet chocolate. May have the flavor of slightly burnt coffee grounds, but this character should not be prominent. Low to medium malt sweetness, often with rich chocolate or caramel flavors. Medium to high bitterness. Low to high hop flavor, generally citrusy or resiny. Low to no esters. Medium to dry finish, occasionally with a lightly burnt quality. Alcohol flavors can be present up to medium levels, but smooth.

Mouthfeel:
Medium to full body. Can be somewhat creamy, particularly if a small amount of oats have been used to enhance mouthfeel. Can have a bit of roast-derived astringency, but this character should not be excessive. Medium-high to high carbonation. Light to moderately strong alcohol warmth, but smooth and not excessively hot.

Comments:
Breweries express individuality through varying the roasted malt profile, malt sweetness and flavor, and the amount of finishing hops used. Generally has bolder roasted malt flavors and hopping than other traditional stouts (except Imperial Stouts).

History:
A modern craft beer and homebrew style that applied an aggressive American hoping regime to a strong traditional English or Irish stout. The homebrew version was previously known as West Coast Stout, which is a common naming scheme for a more highly-hopped beer.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Common American base malts and yeast. Varied use of dark and roasted malts, as well as caramel-type malts. Adjuncts such as oatmeal may be present in low quantities. American hop varieties.

Style Comparison:
Like a hoppy, bitter, strongly roasted Extra or Export Stout. Much more roast and body than a Black IPA. Bigger, stronger versions belong in the Russian Imperial Stout style. Stronger and more assertive, particularly in the dark malt/grain additions and hop character, than American Porter.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.050 – 1.075
IBUs: 35 – 75 FG: 1.010 – 1.022
SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 5.0 – 7.0%

Commercial Examples:
Avery Out of Bounds Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, North Coast Old No. 38, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout

Foreign Extra Stout

16D. Foreign Extra Stout

Overall Impression:
A very dark, moderately strong, fairly dry, stout with prominent roast flavors.

Aroma:
Moderate to high roasted grain aromas, often with coffee, chocolate and/or lightly burnt notes. Low to medium fruitiness. May have a sweet aroma, or molasses, licorice, dried fruit, and/or vinous aromatics. Stronger versions can have a subtle, clean aroma of alcohol. Hop aroma moderately low to none, can be earthy, herbal or floral. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance:
Very deep brown to black in color. Clarity usually obscured by deep color (if not opaque, should be clear). Large tan to brown head with good retention.

Flavor:
Moderate to high roasted grain and malt flavor with a coffee, chocolate, or lightly burnt grain character, although without a sharp bite. Moderately dry. Low to medium esters. Medium to high bitterness. Moderate to no hop flavor, can be earthy, herbal, or floral. Diacetyl medium-low to none.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-full to full body, often with a smooth, sometimes creamy character. May give a warming (but never hot) impression from alcohol presence. Moderate to moderately-high carbonation.

Comments:
Also known as Foreign Stout, Export Stout, Foreign Export Stout. Historic versions (before WWI, at least) had the same OG as domestic Extra Stouts, but had a higher ABV because it had a long secondary with Brettanomyces chewing away at it. The difference between domestic and foreign versions were the hopping and length of maturation.

History:
Stronger stouts brewed for the export market today, but with a history stretching back to the 18th and 19th centuries when they were more heavily-hopped versions of stronger export stouts. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (originally, West India Porter, later Foreign Extra Double Stout) was first brewed in 1801 according to Guinness with “extra hops to give it a distinctive taste and a longer shelf life in hot weather, this is brewed [today] in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. It [currently] makes up 40% of all the Guinness brewed around the world.”

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pale and dark roasted malts and grains, historically also could have used brown and amber malts. Hops mostly for bitterness, typically English varieties. May use adjuncts and sugar to boost gravity.

Style Comparison:
Similar in balance to an Irish Extra Stout, but with more alcohol. Not as big or intense as a Russian Imperial Stout. Lacking the strong bitterness and high late hops of American Stouts. Similar gravity as Tropical Stout, but with a drier finish, higher bitterness, and less esters.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.056 – 1.075
IBUs: 50 – 70 FG: 1.010 – 1.018
SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 6.3 – 8.0%

Commercial Examples:
Coopers Best Extra Stout, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, The Kernel Export Stout, Ridgeway Foreign Export Stout, Southwark Old Stout

Tropical Stout

16C. Tropical Stout

Overall Impression:
A very dark, sweet, fruity, moderately strong ale with smooth roasty flavors without a burnt harshness.

Aroma:
Sweetness evident, moderate to high intensity. Roasted grain aromas moderate to high, and can have coffee or chocolate notes. Fruitiness medium to high. May have a molasses, licorice, dried fruit, and/or vinous aromatics. Stronger versions can have a subtle clean aroma of alcohol. Hop aroma low to none. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance:
Very deep brown to black in color. Clarity usually obscured by deep color (if not opaque, should be clear). Large tan to brown head with good retention.

Flavor:
Quite sweet with a smooth dark grain flavors, and restrained bitterness. Roasted grain and malt character can be moderate to high with a smooth coffee or chocolate flavor, although the roast character is moderated in the balance by the sweet finish. Moderate to high fruity esters. Can have a sweet, dark rum-like quality. Little to no hop flavor. Medium-low to no diacetyl.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-full to full body, often with a smooth, creamy character. May give a warming (but never hot) impression from alcohol presence. Moderate to moderately-high carbonation.

Comments:
Sweetness levels can vary significantly. Surprisingly refreshing in a hot climate.

History:
Originally high-gravity stouts brewed for tropical markets, became popular and imitated by local brewers often using local sugars and ingredients.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Similar to a sweet stout, but with more gravity. Pale and dark roasted malts and grains. Hops mostly for bitterness. May use adjuncts and sugar to boost gravity. Typically made with warm-fermented lager yeast.

Style Comparison:
Tastes like a scaled-up sweet stout with higher fruitiness. Similar to some Imperial Stouts without the high bitterness, strong/burnt roastiness, and late hops, and with lower alcohol. Much more sweet and less hoppy than American Stouts. Much sweeter and less bitter than the similar-gravity Export Stouts.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.056 – 1.075
IBUs: 30 – 50 FG: 1.010 – 1.018
SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 5.5 – 8.0%

Commercial Examples:
ABC Extra Stout, Dragon Stout, Jamaica Stout, Lion Stout, Royal Extra Stout

Oatmeal Stout

16B. Oatmeal Stout

Overall Impression:
A very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale with a complementary oatmeal flavor. The sweetness, balance, and oatmeal impression can vary considerably.

Aroma:
Mild roasted grain aromas, generally with a coffee-like character. A light malty sweetness can suggest a coffee-and-cream impression. Fruitiness should be low to medium-high. Diacetyl medium-low to none. Hop aroma medium-low to none, earthy or floral. A light grainy-nutty oatmeal aroma is optional.

Appearance:
Medium brown to black in color. Thick, creamy, persistent tan- to brown-colored head. Can be opaque (if not, it should be clear).

Flavor:
Similar to the aroma, with a mild roasted coffee to coffee-and-cream flavor, and low to moderately-high fruitiness. Oats and dark roasted grains provide some flavor complexity; the oats can add a nutty, grainy or earthy flavor. Dark grains can combine with malt sweetness to give the impression of milk chocolate or coffee with cream. Medium hop bitterness with the balance toward malt. Medium-sweet to medium-dry finish. Diacetyl medium-low to none. Hop flavor medium-low to none, typically earthy or floral.

Mouthfeel:
Medium-full to full body, with a smooth, silky, velvety, sometimes an almost oily slickness from the oatmeal. Creamy. Medium to medium-high carbonation.

Comments:
Generally between Sweet and Irish Stouts in sweetness. Variations exist, from fairly sweet to quite dry, as well as English and American versions (American versions tend to be more hoppy, less sweet, and less fruity). The level of bitterness also varies, as does the oatmeal impression. Light use of oatmeal may give a certain silkiness of body and richness of flavor, while heavy use of oatmeal can be fairly intense in flavor with an almost oily mouthfeel, dryish finish, and slight grainy astringency. When judging, allow for differences in interpretation.

History:
A variant of nourishing or invalid stouts of the late 1800s using oatmeal in the grist, similar to the development of sweet stout that used lactose. An original Scottish version used a significant amount of oat malt. Later went through a shady phase where some English brewers would throw a handful of oats into their parti-gyled stouts in order to legally produce a ‘healthy’ Oatmeal Stout for marketing purposes. Most popular in England between the World Wars, was revived in the craft beer era for export, which helped lead to its adoption as a popular modern American craft beer style that uses a noticeable (not symbolic) quantity of oats.

Characteristic Ingredients:
Pale, caramel and dark roasted malts (often chocolate) and grains. Oatmeal or malted oats (5-20% or more) used to enhance fullness of body and complexity of flavor. Hops primarily for bittering. Can use brewing sugars or syrups. English ale yeast.

Style Comparison:
Most are like a cross between an Irish Extra Stout and a Sweet Stout with oatmeal added. Several variations exist, with the sweeter versions more like a Sweet Stout with oatmeal instead of lactose, and the drier versions more like a more nutty, flavorful Irish Extra Stout. Both tend to emphasize the body and mouthfeel.

Vital Statistics:
OG: 1.045 – 1.065
IBUs: 25 – 40 FG: 1.010 – 1.018
SRM: 22 – 40 ABV: 4.2 – 5.9%

Commercial Examples:
Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Broughton Scottish Oatmeal Stout, Figueroa Mountain Stagecoach Stout, St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Young’s Oatmeal Stout