By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you’re confused about the difference between stouts and porters, you’re not alone. Both dark beers use roasted malts or roasted barley, in addition to hops, water and yeast. Stouts and porters were interchanged for centuries, with stouts often referring to the strongest porters, and sometimes, confusingly, vice versa.
These days, stouts are specialized, starting with the Irish or dry stout with coffee-like flavors; the imperial or Russian stout with a high alcohol content at 9% or more; the milk stout with an added lactose sugar once hailed as more nutritious than milk and given to nursing mothers; and the oatmeal stout with its thick and smooth body. Lucky you: all of these styles are made by Oregon brewers. Many of them have added chocolate, coffee and vanilla to their brews.
Last month, Bier One in Newport hosted our stout tasting. As always, Oregon Beer Growler tastings are blind -- the tasters do not see the brands until after they vote. Our consumer tasters chose the following beers as their favorites from among those submitted by Oregon brewers from all over the state.
Wild Ride: Stand Up and Shout Stout, Redmond 7% ABV, 55 IBUs
Brewery Description: This foreign export style stout features the addition of vanilla beans and Kona coffee, harmonizing the notes of chocolate, caramel and roast.
Consumer Comments: “Satan is my master.” “Good!” “Chocolate raisins?” “It’s heavy, but delicious.” “Chocolaty good taste.” “Bring me my coffee, please.”
Ninkasi: Oatis Oatmeal Stout, Eugene 7% ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: Oatmeal stouts are characterized by a roasted front flavor, smooth rich oats, a touch of chocolate flavor and dry finish. Oatis is bigger than the traditional style with more alcohol, body and a touch more bitterness to keep it balanced.
Consumer Comments: “Good flavor.” “It’s got a good bitter flavor. Are those hops or what?” “Good mocha!”
Arch Rock: He-Man Imperial Stout, Gold Beach 9.2% ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewery Description: A black, roasty, strong yet smooth Russian Imperial Stout. Complex malty flavors with a noticeable hop bitterness are softened by the addition of rolled oats. Why “He-Man?” This was the first stout recipe James ever brewed. When it turned out well he realized, “I have the power!”
Consumer Comments: “Sweet and light.” “Subtle espresso flavor.” “Easy and mellow. No stout about it!”
Ecliptic: Mintaka Stout, Portland 6% AVB, 35 IBUs
Brewery Description: Named for the star that burns some 90,000 times more luminous than our sun, Mintaka is brewed in the export stout style. It has a full-roast flavor, slight toffee notes, a spicy hop character and finishes very clean and dry.
Consumer Comments: “Nice aroma with good flavor and roasty cocoa.” “Perfect head. Yes!” “Nice balance of chocolate and coffee.”
Alameda: Black Bear Stout, Portland 7% ABV, 55 IBUs
Brewery Description: With two-row, black patent malt, malted rye, Munich, Crystal and chocolate malts, this brew is winner of several Great American Beer Festival medals. It’s surprisingly light-bodied with hints of chocolate and coffee. Despite being the same color as the dark side of the moon, this beer has a subtle and intricate mouth feel.
Consumer Comments: “Easy drinking stout!” “My favorite so far. I like the balance of roast flavor, light sweetness and weight.” “Smooth. Goes down fast.”
Laurelwood: Organic Espresso Stout, Portland 6.3% ABV, 34 IBUs
Brewery Description: Wake up and smell the coffee stout. The brewery teamed up with Portland Roasting Coffee again for this batch, featuring organic beans from Honduras, Sumatra and Mexico.
Consumer Comments: “Strong coffee flavor.” “Sharp and fine.” “Coffee! Coffee!” “Smells like roasted espresso beans.” “Great coffee stout!” “Not bitter. Distinctly different from all the others.” “Creamy coffee!”
Coalition: Bring Out the Imp, Portland 8.5% ABV, 70 IBUs
Brewery Description: This Imperial Stout is designed to keep you warm at night with a smile on your face all winter. A nose of cocoa, cherry, and a whisper of smoke in addition to coffee, chocolate and dark fruit flavors.
Consumer Comments: “Reminds me of Guinness!” “Roasty and light.” “Yes, yes, yes!” “Dry and smoky, but easy drinking.” “Smooth and bold with a clean finish.” “Clean, roasty and slightly sweet.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.