Philip Walter is captivated by the sheer diversity of stouts on offer in New Zealand. 

Because I’m a magpie I’ve ended up with a fridge full of stouts offering various treasures when opened. 

How come I have so many? Why do I keep buying them? And weirdly, are they all the same beer? By which I mean I’d begun to wrongly think: “Is coffee the only thing they put in stouts?’ because in my head all the stouts I had in the fridge had a coffee element, and most of them a vanilla addition.

Why did I think that? Well having already too many to choose from in the fridge I’d bought another one just before the lockdown: Good George Breakfast Latte, which reminded me of Kaiser Bros Fig Bang Theory. Both have a heavy coffee element, and the Good George beer a lot of vanilla.

So, I checked my app, as you do, and boy was I wrong about the coffee and vanilla combo being the predominant additions.

Of late, according to the app, I’ve enjoyed:  Cassels Triple Milk Stout, (a wonderful thing), and also the flavoured/pastry styles that are; Garage Project Nitro Vanilla Latte⁠, 8 Wired Opium Cake, with orange peel, raisins and vanilla, and their oddity Gorky Park is aged in Bourbon barrels bringing a strong taste of vanilla, Kereru Blueberry Stout (delicious), Mount Brewing Breakfast of Champions, which has vanilla and a whole lot of other things, and the newly released Isthmus Figaro, a Chocolate and Fig Stout.

On top of all of that I’ve also recently enjoyed the Garage Project Snug which was lovely, even if for me it was a bit like Guinness, as well as Hallertau Nocturne Double Stout and the whiskey-barrel aged version which were both joys and despite a common base wonderfully completely different beers.

What I have learnt here is that there appears to be a core go-to flavours and styles, variations and additions on a theme, some of them don’t go well with others, which in no order appear to be:

vanilla;

coffee;

chocolate;

coconut;

lactose;

barrel-aging (bourbon is popular, whisky is rarer);

fruit (blueberry, fig, raspberry and others of the more sharp/tart variety);

and oysters.

Why I have so many stouts in my fridge is quite simple, there’s a vast range of flavour and possibility.

And I like that there are at two sides to stouts, the standard and the newer pastry stouts, and that there is a healthy and vibrant competition in both those columns within the New Zealand craft beer community. The pastry stouts from Duncan’s, Garage Project, 8 Wired, for instance, and then on the other side a more purist and defined field of the more traditional stouts from the likes of Hallertau, Three Boys and Cassels. Some breweries do both and that for me is a brewer’s confidence.

I like that I can have a well thought out stout that brings me all the traditional stout pleasure of roasted flavour (often similar to coffee) or to go deep with something at the other extreme, like one of the Garage Project Surrender to the Void beers for instance.

I would suggest that you’re avoiding stouts and you’re missing out on a whole world of amazing things, don’t let the idea that “Guinness is stout” cloud your judgement.

Tim Newman points out in a recent article here: dark beer isn’t going anywhere, it’s too versatile and too hardy.

I’ve still got far too many stouts the fridge, which includes at the moment Lakeman Black Jack Gold, Duncan’s Toasty Marshmallow, 8 Wired Double Scoop Cherry Frangipane, and Behemoth Bourbon Batshit Crazy, Shining Peak Vintage Stout (2020) and the North End Merchant of the Devil, all of which are waiting their turn at the table.

And I’ve just noticed that Duncan’s have a Tiramisu Stout that I haven’t purchased yet. I must go check the fridge for space.

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