Pictured is the bottled stout of Maverick, the brewpub downtown in Toronto. A big, ambitious place, it brews contemporary styles with quality and fidelity, based on a number of visits since it opened almost one year ago.
This stout has an oatmeal addition. It is not dissimilar to numerous Ontario porters and stouts at around the same gravity. I had a number of similar beers in England at the recent Great British Beer Festival.
The profile is dryish, roasty, with only a light malty quality if any. It’s the “international” way currently with beer of this type and gravity.
The hops were good although I could always use more.
Historically, some porter must have tasted like this. I think the proof is Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter or its Oatmeal Stout, which are similar to this beer. They emerged from an old-established regional brewer about 30 years ago, and surely reflect brewery archival recipes, at least in part.
London’s Fuller Porter too tends to the non-rich side, although less so than the last two mentioned.
Modern porter/stout of normal strength often lacks IMO, i) a rich character, ii) the subtle kind of roast that complements no. i). You do encounter that often in Imperial Stout but historically there wasn’t a division that Imperial had the rich palate and the rest, dryish and lean.
Some lower-gravity porter was always of the rich, malty sort. How do I know it? Because of a long tasting history that includes beers like Sinebrychoff Stout (Finland) or Carnegie Porter (Sweden), Anchor Porter (San Francisco), Sierra Nevada Porter, Cooper’s Stout in Australia, Champlain Porter in Canada, and many others.
Most of these were pre-craft and reflected more accurately (IMO) the original porter tradition than today’s group. And the craft ones mentioned emerged early, therefore were influenced by the original tradition.
I also know it from historical sensory descriptions of mild porter, e.g., a “balmy” character. Contemporary laboratory analyses also show much of the beer had a rich character, see e.g. this 1870 table of porter and stout data from The British Medical Journal.*
Many of the porters, all averaging about 5% ABV, start at 1014 FG and just go up from there…
As well, I’ve tasted a number of recreations of 1800s porter or stout that taste much more like this group than most current beers with the name. Fuller did a recreation a few years ago that was superb, a double stout type.
So why has this turn in the road occurred? I think it’s due to the long hand of modern Guinness with its sizeable proportion of unmalted barley and well-attenuated taste. Brewers still, mostly unconsciously today, make a standard stout in that image.
Of course, most craft stout and porter taste better than Guinness, but I can see its DNA in these beers.
Michael Jackson contributed to this by identifying a style of “dry stout”, one said to be Irish. But historically Irish stout, certainly when mild or new, had a good body and indeed was all-malt into the early 1930s (no raw grains). Of course he based himself on what was in the market when he started writing in 1977.
Guinness at the time pretty much defined stout, at least visibly it did. So he used that as the barometer of modern stout, vs. say how Guinness was brewed in the 1800s.
I don’t brew at home but if I did, I’d make a beer with the same roast intensity as the Maverick, or less, and attenuate it higher. Perhaps too I’d omit the oatmeal although I don’t mind it necessarily.
Porter in its 1700s-1800s heyday did not use oatmeal, not commercially-produced ones. I’m not sure the addition really helps the taste. Fuller’s porter doesn’t use it and may be all-malt although it could have more character.
Putting it a different way, I’d like to see more regular-strength porter or stout with the kind of richness encountered in Imperial stout, milk stout, or Baltic porter. The last two are part of the porter family but due to their respective lactose and bottom-fermentation, they differ from the standard porter palate.
Therefore, they can’t substitute for the kind of palate I’m talking about.
*Pilsener Urquell is about 1014 FG, which most would consider full-bodied. This gives an idea of the relative richness of “robust porter” in the 1800s (see the Comments).