Sunriver Brewing Company recently announced the addition of Cocoa Cow Chocolate Milk Stout to its year-round can lineup. Cocoa Cow is a ridiculously tasty dessertlike beer brewed with milk sugar and cocoa nibs for a silky texture and rich chocolate flavor that live up to its name.
It made me think about stout and how, with the changing of the seasons, it really is a terrific autumn style to complement the cooler weather and shorter days. The best stouts are roasty and warming, hearty and comforting —think “comfort food” in a glass.
There’s no one main style of stout, rather there is a range of styles. Dry and roasty Irish stout typified by Guinness is arguably the original stout, tracing its origins to English porter. Other style variations include full-bodied sweet stout, smooth and creamy oatmeal stout and aggressive, boozy imperial stout.
Aromas and flavors can range from mellow to bold, typically showcasing the coffee, chocolate, roasted nuts, dark caramel, cocoa and roasted grains. The darker malts and flavor profile are well-suited to complementary additions that can include vanilla, coffee, chocolate, spices, molasses and licorice.
Before we go much further, let’s debunk a common myth surrounding the style, that stouts are stronger and/or heavier than regular beer.
This is false. In fact, that pint of Guinness you’ll find on draft is lighter both in body and in alcohol than most craft beers. Guinness Draught is only 4.2% alcohol by volume, and one 12-ounce serving contains only 125 calories. This is in part because the dark malts that give stout its color are more highly kilned than pale malts, a process that reduces the sugar content and often provides a thinner, drier mouthfeel.
Not to say there aren’t heavy, stronger stouts; many American brewers tend to amp up their versions of the style. But when comparing beers of similar strength, standard stout is often lighter. For instance, Deschutes Brewery’s Obsidian Stout and Fresh Squeezed IPA both have 6.4% ABV, yet Fresh Squeezed has 225 calories per serving — five more than Obsidian at 220.
While not nearly as ubiquitous as IPA, many breweries include one or more stouts in their standard lineup. Here’s a roundup of some of those beers to enjoy as the leaves are changing colors.
Deschutes Brewery: Obsidian Stout
One of Deschutes’ longest-running beers, this American-style stout draws inspiration from English pub beers, offering up roasty notes of coffee and chocolate, with a robust body that brings to mind biscuits and a slight char.
6.4% ABV and 55 IBUs
McMenamins Old St. Francis School: Terminator Stout
Terminator has been a staple in the McMenamins lineup since 1985. Rich notes of toasted malts, coffee, and a nutty roastiness make this a great “comfort stout” to enjoy next to a roaring fire.
6.45% ABV and 30 IBUs
GoodLife Brewing Company: Pass Stout
This is a deceptively easy-drinking stout with a lighter body and mellow roastiness that hides its 7% alcohol strength well.
Roasted malts, cocoa, and touch of licorice round out the flavors to a smooth finish.
7% ABV and 70 IBUs
Crux Fermentation Project: Crux Stout
Crux’s offering is also an easy drinker despite its strength and is available on nitro at the tasting room for a velvety smooth experience highlighting coffee and chocolate.
Nitrogen produces smaller, denser bubbles than carbon dioxide and gives the beer a creamy texture rather than the standard carbonation.
7.7% ABV and 60 IBUs
Sunriver Brewing: Paddy’s Irish Stout
In addition to Cocoa Cow, Sunriver brews Paddy’s Irish Stout year-round for its pubs. Paddy’s is nicely dry with a crisp roasty body that showcases a touch of caramel.
5.8% ABV and 38 IBUs
Worthy Brewing Company: Lights Out Stout
Worthy’s year-round stout is a robust stout, brewed with oats, milk sugar and vanilla beans. The aroma is full of sweet dark caramel and Turkish coffee, with a flavor of nutty roastiness up front, and cocoa, cold-brewed coffee and mellow vanilla as it warms.
7.7% ABV and 30 IBUs
These beers are mainstays, but to explore further, seek out Trade War Export Stout from Bend Brewing Company, Bandit Springs Stout from Ochoco Brewing Company in Prineville, Knockout Stout from Oblivion Brewing Company, Bull Trout Stout from Bridge 99 Brewery and Justin Time Stout on cask at Porter Brewing Company in Redmond.
These are all beers that can be enjoyed year-round, but they are a great accompaniment to the transition into fall.
What’s your favorite stout?
— Jon Abernathy is a beer writer and blogger and launched The Brew Site (www.thebrewsite.com) in 2004. He can be reached at email@example.com .