Foreign extra stouts were hard to find, at least they were for me. I was able to secure a Guinness Extra Stout fairly easily around St. Patrick’s Day, but the others were more of a challenge. Since this style is currently subdivided into “tropical” and “export,” I’d hoped to get my hands on both varieties for comparison, but none of the stores in my area had tropical versions. Luckily The Beer Cellar, my local bottle shop, had a Ballast Point Indra Kunindra and, voilà, this was made into a much more interesting tasting session (Thanks Dave!). While Indra Kunindra doesn’t qualify as a tropical version, it is certainly an outlier compared to the other two I tasted. Just you wait and see.
Foreign Extra stouts are currently classified as style 13D within the BJCP guidelines, but this will likely change when the next round of guidelines are released. According to a 2014 draft I happened to find online, the category will eventually be divided into two new ones, respectively named Tropical Stout and Irish Export Stout.
The category “Foreign Extra Stout” might sound a little weird to our modern ears, but the word “stout” was originally an adjective used in England during the late 1600s to 1700s. In his book Designing Great Beers, Ray Daniels explains the term’s origin:
At this time, it appears that stout was a bit of jargon meaning simply “strong beer.” […] Somewhere along the line, porter drinkers began to distinguish stronger examples with the adjective “stout.” A patron might enter a pub and say, “Give me a stout porter, bartender,” in much the same way one might ask for a “hoppy pale ale.” The label on the beer doesn’t say “stout” or “hoppy,” but if the server is familiar with the term, you’ll get what you want.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion that we should bring this adjective back into popularity. Just think, you could go into a bar and ask for a “stout IPA” and really confuse some folks!
BJCP Summary of Foreign Extra Stout: (full description here)
“A very dark, moderately strong, roasty ale. Tropical varieties can be quite sweet, while export versions can be drier and fairly robust.”
I sampled the following stouts:
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Guinness, Ltd.)
Indra Kunindra (Ballast Point Brewing Company)
Schlafly Irish-Style Extra Stout (Schlafly)
Both Guinness’s and Schlafly’s stouts were brownish-black with ruby highlights. Indra Kunindra was purely black, almost an inky blue.
These three beers smelled totally different from one another. In the case of Schlafly’s, I initially had a difficult time smelling much more beyond faint roasted grain that hinted at brown bread, but as it warmed these aromas became more prominent. Guinness’s smelled pretty boozey with roasted cherries and chocolate on the side. Ballast Point’s (and here’s where it started to get weird) smelled of strong curry, anise, coconut, and chocolate. And yes, it was super odd to smell those things coming out of a beer.
Guinness Foreign Extra and Schlafly Irish-Style Extra were both full and creamy, with Guinness’s also being very dry. Indra Kunindra was rather thin by comparison, but still had a nice creaminess to it.
All three beers were vastly different in taste, too. The Guinness tasted of burnt coffee and strawberries up front with chocolate and mild hops in the middle, and a malty sweetness in the back of the throat. It finished with a tangy, tart blueberry-esque flavor (according to the BJCP this comes from the bit of Brettanomyces included in the recipe) and an acrid, almost herbal aftertaste.
Indra Kunindra tasted quite a bit like it smelled–of yellow curry and the slightest hint of chocolate coconut–which was quickly followed by a spicy kick. This beer was really like a Willy Wonka experience in a glass. I felt like I was drinking liquid yellow curry with lime and thai basil (yes, those garnish flavors were actually present, too). And while I love a good curry, this was pretty … weird. I would be so curious to drink this beer alongside a Thai dish with the exact same flavors to see how they play off of each other. In fact, the Ballast Point website lists “white rice” as a food pairing for this beer. So I say just pour the beer on the white rice, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
And then there was Schlafly.
My favorite was Schlafly’s Irish-Style Export. I was drawn to its smooth and subtle balance of flavors, and the amazing way it masked the 8% alcohol that the label claimed. This beer was neither boozy nor harsh, as the others seemed by comparison. It was a smooth and creamy sea of roasted chocolate, bready grain, and hints of cherry. This beer was both simple and simply beautiful.
Peeps, this is the second to last BJCP stout style I have to review. Next comes Russian Imperials, and much like this damned Chicago winter many of us have just survived, I will soon be dunzo with stouts. Check back soon for the final Stout Style Study!