Note: in the current (2015) BJCP Style Guidelines, American Stout is categorized as Style 20B. From the guidelines: Category 20, evolved from their English namesakes to be wholly transformed by American craft brewers. Generally, these styles are bigger, stronger, with more roast flavors, and more hoppy than their English cousins. These styles are grouped together due to a similar shared history and flavor profile.
This beer can be thought of as an American interpretation of a Foreign Extra Stout. American brewers would have had this beer as the benchmark for their own style to come since it was the one
imported into the U.S. I'm sure there were some breweries in the U.S. that made stout before prohibition, none made one after 1919. It was America's first microbrewery, New Albion in Sonoma California around 1978 that first brewed a stout-style beer. Of course it wasn't long before every other microbrewery and brewpub followed suit, starting with Boulder Brewing and Sierra Nevada in the early 1980's.
American versions have since become a mainstay and are brewed by most American breweries at least seasonally. These beers are often the choice for Special Christmas beers. This is one style that goes well with food, especially steaks and grilled lamb.
These beers are bolder and generally higher alcohol stouts that range widely between the sweeter and the drier versions. One thing most have in common however, is that most have a strong roasted malt flavors, sometimes to the point of tasting like burnt coffee. Hop character in this style can be very pronounced with the use of citrusy and fruity American hop varieties typical for the style. These beers have a good head retention sometimes from the use of oatmeal, which is an acceptable adjunct in this beer style.
Many people want to know what the difference between a stout and a porter. Is it the use of roasted malt in stouts? Is it the fact that many stouts use Black Patent malt and Porters use chocolate malt? Well, none of these questions truly tell the difference. Read this article from Beer Connoisseur Magazine on the subject.
To brew one, use bold American hops in your American Stout recipe exclusively and a clean American style yeast that is neutral in flavor and finishes dry.
References: Information for this article was adapted from the 2008 and 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, and Brewing Classic Styles 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew, written by Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, and the Brewing in Styles section of Brewing Techniques magazine entitled A Stout Comparison written by Roger Bergen.
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