I decided to track down some stouts of Argentine origin to
explore more of what the Argentine beer industry has to offer in the style. As it happens, the beers I picked and the order I drank them
in were very instructive about what stout is all about and what makes a good
stout. Let’s take a look:
This is a very simple and straightforward beer. The
bitterness is there but is nowhere near overpowering and there is no hop
flavour, only bitterness. It has an enticing smell but not a complex one
either. This beer is really all about the malt, as the body is not heavy, chewy
or a star all its own. In fact, it is a little thin and the beer is quite
carbonated which amplifies this effect. The roast malt flavours are not intense,
but very variable. Each sip is a little different: sweet-ish, chocolate, roast,
There are no heavy or complex flavours here. The beer is
rather plain, but not overly simple. It was a nice sipper but didn’t make me
sit up and take notice. This beer is Decent.
More body here and a more pungent aroma as well. There is
less carbonation than the previous offering from Bohl. There are less distinct
layers to the malt flavours. Instead, there is a stronger push from a tighter
range of aspects dark malts can offer. The body helps make this beer more
interesting and is a nice medium for the yeast flavours. Yeast played a soft
but noticeable and very nice role in this beer.
This was a better beer than the last one but not by leaps
and bounds. The body was an improvement and it was more fun to drink for that
reason. The yeast offered a little creaminess and it was a reminder (though
this beer is not remotely comparable) of a world classic beer in which the
yeast is a key part of the enjoyment: Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout*
This beer was nowhere near as good as that, but the fact it
jogged my memory and reminded me of Sam Smith’s can’t be a bad sign. Franz: you are on the right track. This beer in Nice.
This was the blackest and most pungent of the three. Very
chocolat-ey smell. The body is smooth and thicker than the Scheitler but was my
no means heavy. Again, and it is no surprise, this beer is different than the
last. Here, however, the differences are less stark: the difference in body is
not as great as between the first and second. The flavour and body is rich but
exceedingly drinkable, light and smooth. Nothing powerful or overbearing
here—just a solid stout with clear flavour notes and a great body.
This beer is Very Nice, perhaps even verging on Awesome.
My thoughts overall:
It was a happy coincidence that the beers were drank in
order of enjoyment. It reminded me of the pieces of the puzzle that make black
beers such a favourite of mine.
Body -- what invariably disappoints me in a stout is the
Poor examples of stout (call them “stouts in colour only”)
invariably have weak, watery bodies. The mouthfeel of the beer is an enjoyable
part in and of itself. A thin texture with no heft to it at all is a poor
vehicle for what is inherently a hefty range of flavours. The colour and
flavours in black beers come from various forms of highly roasted or
intentionally burnt malts. Roasted barley that has not been malted can also be
Imagine water with the flavour of a potent gourmet
chocolate. It would taste strange. Part of the appeal of a chocolate flavoured
beverage is the body. Ladies and
gentlemen of the jury, I refer you to the joys of drinking chocolate milk. Texture is important.
Why does a good body make a better stout?
The first beer is a counterexample that highlights what I
mean by coherence. You might think I would like it because it was a showcase of
many different flavours dark malts can show off. While it was by no means
unpleasant to drink the beer was running in too many different directions at
once and the thin body was helping it get away with that. You didn’t need to
sip away at this beer to tease the flavours out. They were already teased apart
to begin with.
Examples of stout that are packed with many complex flavours
(check out the end of a previous post to read about Nogne Porter) avoid the problems described here because of their more
substantial bodies. They hold the many flavours together into a coherent
package. This is a good way of summing up why I liked the second and third
beers better; they were just more coherent.
Another observation that I made was about my own habits. I
love a good imperial stout because of their complexity, booziness, and robust
character. To say they are not very sessionable beers is missing the point. You
aren’t meant to drink a case of them as they often approach and frequently
exceed 9% abv.
What the beers I had on Stout Day brought back into sharp
relief was the pleasures in drinking a more sessionable beer that still took to
heart the best things about their imperial big brothers. There is nothing
necessarily imperial about a beer that has a smooth yet substantial mouthfeel,
bold flavour, and an element of contemplation available to the drinker. I found
all of these characteristics in the Berlina Foreign Stout.
I had a great Stout Day. Not only was drinking fun, but so
was seeking them out in Buenos Aires.
This post is already long enough so I will conclude the
words here and let the photos take over. Let us just say that buying the beer
and attempting to feed myself proved just as entertaining as consuming the
products later that night.
*Sam Smith's uses an uncommon system of fermentation (called a Yorkshire Square -- more to read on Yorkshire Squares here) and a house strain of yeast that has been in use for a very long time. The two go hand in hand: the system is partly designed to rouse the activity of the yeast and the yeast is very flocculent (meaning it tends to clump together) which means it will benefit from rousing. A yeast character is evident is the examples of Smith’s beers I have tried.