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Stout (Classic Beer Style) Paperback – January 26, 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
a. Completly dismissive of the Oatmeal Stout style saying it's just a sweet stout plus marketing.
b. Treats imperial stout as just a stronger version of standard stout.
c. Doesn't ever define stout.
d. no recipies for milk stout or oatmeal stout(see a).
e. Refuses to accept porter as a different style.
f. Lot's of downright incorrect information.
I am, however, glad that I waited to purchase this book. As one reviewer says, it does not provide information for a first time brewer (though such information is readily available in print and online). And as another reviewer suggests, the chapter on stout in Daniels' _Designing Great Beers_ provides a much better *starting point* for stout brewing. Using Daniels' chapter as guide, a brewer can make a passable stout on his first try, and even possibly a great one.
Lewis' _Stout_ is a book for the home- or craft-brewer who can already make a decent stout, but who wants to take it to the next level. The history of Guinness and the account of their brewing methods is interesting, but in terms of practical value, the real heart of this book is chapter 4, "A Taste of Stout".
Chapter 4 begins with a corrective polemic on beer styles, where Lewis argues (reasonably persuasively) that the subdivision of stout styles has rather little to do with flavor profiles and rather more to do with marketing, which in previous, less teetotaling eras, often involved making health claims (hence the wholesome-sounding "oatmeal" and "milk" styles of stout). I personally find beer styles to be extremely helpful in my attempts to explain beers to novice tasters. But as a brewer, I really just want to make a great beer. If it ends up a bit sweet: fine, call it a sweet stout if you'd like; if it ends up a bit astringent and well attenuated: fine, call it a dry stout. If it ends up on the lighter side: call it a porter. What really matters is that the beer tastes great and looks great in the glass.
Lewis takes an empirical approach to profile the sensory qualities of stout. He begins with a deflated definition: a stout is a black or very dark beer that is referred to as a `stout' by its brewer. The rest of chapter 4 is spent supplementing this definition with a statistical analysis of commercial stouts available at the time of writing (1995). No concise definition is ever offered, but correlations and oppositions in the flavor breakdown are discussed at some length. In the course of this discussion, the reader is given a concise introduction to the world of scientific sensory analysis. The author clearly has the ambition to get his readers to try such methods for themselves, and to that end he provides an excellent explanation of the principal elements of stout's flavor, mouth-feel, and aroma. Using this lexicon and referring to the standard reference beers for each element, a reader is able to become an expert taster of stout. A few test batches later, and the reader can explain what ingredients make what sorts of flavor contributions to his beers and is freed from the descriptions penned by a specific maltster or by the author of a book written before the barley in his mash tun was even sown. Malts change over the years and from region to region, making older descriptions inherently unreliable, at least for the fine-tuning of an already passable product. Performing her own sensory analysis frees a brewer from relying on these sources. A casual home-brewer does not need this kind of information, but a serious brewer does, whether a home-brewer or a professional.
Lewis also presents the best explanation that I've seen of the difference between flavor and mouth-feel, and of the ways that they can become confused in the process of tasting beers.
Other reviewers seem to have been turned off by two things: the use of principal components analysis to construct the sensory profile of stout, and the use of extract weight in specifying recipes. The concept of extract weight is used by the big boys to calculate their malt bills, and a serious home-brewer should not be scared off by practices that have led to commercial success and repeatable brewing. An extract weight recipe remains relatively constant even when the raw agricultural products change form year to year or over the course of a year as moisture from the air accumulates in stored malt. The technique is adequately explained at the beginning of chapter 6, and would be of use to any home brewer that buys her grains in bulk. Principal components analysis leads to a very sophisticated characterization of stout, but anyone who has sampled a few stouts already has the basis of this analysis down: you can taste whether a beer is sweet or bitter, whether it has a burnt taste (ashy) or a roast taste (coffee, chocolate). The statistical analysis that Lewis provides just takes such judgments to the next level, so that associations and anti-associations between these elements can be seen.
In the background, I think also that the author's dismissal of beer styles may rub some home brewers the wrong way. We rely on styles in competitions, and as a shorthand for describing our projects to one another, so a dismissal of beer style might read as a dismissal of home brewing and home brewers. This impression might also be reinforced by the presentation of technical data in relatively raw forms, which one might assume is only relevant to the professional brewer-chemist. I think that a closer reading of _Stout_ will reveal these impressions to be incorrect, and even if correct, they would not diminish the usefulness of the information and techniques presented in _Stout_, even to the home-brewer.
A final comment: the glimpse into the history and manufacturing process of Guinness is priceless---ever wonder how the widget in canned Guinness works?