Note: in the current (2015) BJCP Style Guidelines, American Stout is categorized as Style 20B. From the guidelines: Category 20 American Porter and Stouts, evolved from their English namesakes to be wholly transformed by American craft brewers. Generally, these styles are bigger, stronger, more roast-forward, and more hop-centric than their Anglo cousins. These styles are grouped together due to a similar shared history and flavor profile.
The information below is still valid, but for those studying for the new BJCP exam, it may be incomplete. Use it as supplemental reading for the style and I will endeavor to update the styles as fast as I can.
An American Stout 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 Stouts have since become a mainstay and are brewed by most at least seasonally. These beers are often the choice for Special Christmas beers.
American Stouts are 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.
To brew one, use bold American hops exclusively and a clean American style yeast that is neutral in flavor and finishes dry.
American Stout Description
- Aroma: The American version of the stout has a moderate to strong aroma of roasted malts, often having a roasted coffee or dark chocolate character. You should get little or now burnt or charcoal aromas in these beers. There should be medium to very low hop aroma, but when present it is often with a citrusy or resiny American hop character. Esters are optional, but can be present up to medium intensity. Light alcohol-derived aromatics are also optional. No diacetyl should be present.
- Appearance: The color is usually jet black, although some may appear very dark brown with a large, persistent head of light tan to light brown color. They are usually opaque.
- Flavor: You should notice moderate to very high roasted malt flavors, often tasting of coffee, roasted coffee beans, or dark or bittersweet chocolate. There may be a note of slightly burnt coffee flavor, but this character should not be prominent if present. There should be low to medium malt sweetness, often with rich chocolate or caramel flavors. The hop bitterness should be medium to high and hop flavor can be low to high, and generally reflects citrusy or resiny American varieties. Light esters may be present but are not required. Medium to dry finish, occasionally with a light burnt quality. Alcohol flavors can be present up to medium levels, but smooth. No diacetyl should be present.
- Mouthfeel: American Stouts will have a medium to full body and they can be somewhat creamy, particularly if a small amount of oats have been used to enhance mouthfeel. They can have a bit of roast-derived astringency, but this character should not be excessive. THere can be medium-high to high carbonation with light to moderately strong alcohol warmth, but smooth and not excessively hot.
- Overall Impression: American Stouts are hoppy, bitter, strongly roasted Foreign-style Stouts (of the export variety) Americanized with American hops.
- Comments: Breweries express individuality by varying the roasted malt profile, malt sweetness and flavor, and the amount of finishing hops used. It will generally have a bolder roasted malt flavor and hopping than other traditional stouts (except Imperial Stouts).
- 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.
- Vital Statistics: OG: 1.050 – 1.075 FG: 1.010 – 1.022 IBUs: 35 – 75 SRM: 30 – 40 ABV: 5 – 7%.
- Commercial Examples: Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout, North Coast Old No. 38, Bar Harbor Cadillac Mountain Stout, Avery Out of Bounds Stout, Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout, Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout.
References:Information for this article was adapted from the 2008 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.