The Forgotten Stout

Craft beer consumers in Texas have always had a complicated relationship with stouts. Originally one of the four core beer styles new breweries were almost required to make, stouts (or “dark beers” in general) have traditionally been a tougher sell in the Southwestern US than lighter, more quaffable weather-friendly styles.

As a style, stouts (and the related style, porter) originated in England a couple of centuries ago as brewers experimented with extracting more flavor from dark-roasted grain, not unlike similar practices for coffee or tea. The public loved the style, and today Guinness has become one of the most recognized of any commercial brands around the globe. A majority of beer-drinking Americans can likely trace their first taste of stout to a local bar pouring a shamrock design into a creamy head atop an imperial pint.

Of course, like any modern craft beer the stout has branched into many stylistic variations. Guinness has been classified as the archetypical Irish dry stout. Stronger beers designed for transport and sale overseas are the export stouts, with the strongest, inky beers grouped into the Russian imperial stout category. Individual variations abound with flavorful brewing additions, such as oatmeal stouts, coffee stouts, oyster stouts, milk (sweet) stouts, and the current popular trend of often over-the-top, calorie-laden, dessert-like pastry stouts.

However, one stout style is very often overlooked and rarely found in today’s market. As American homebrew and commercial brewing efforts grew, an American stout style carved out an existence as an alternative to the English or Irish originals. The American stout is more robust than the dry stout, somewhat roastier and more moderately hopped without proceeding all the way to a heavy double stout or strong imperial stout. A very popular commercial example was the original Rogue Shakespeare Stout, but that hasn’t been seen here in quite a while.

Pink Boots: “Empowering women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education.”

Enter the Pink Boots Society of North Texas. The Pink Boots Society is a nationwide advocacy group supporting and promoting women and nonbinary individuals in the alcoholic beverage manufacturing industry (ie, beer, wine, cider, liquor, etc). Its members consist of actual employees working at various levels in local craft breweries—from front office to the sweltering brewhouse—often with very little public acknowledgement or exposure.

Pink Boots is not a commercial brewery per se, but as they consist of local brewers they will periodically collaborate with an established brewery to produce and sell an original beer under the host’s license. Their first local packaged beer was with Grapevine’s Hop & Sting Brewing in 2020, a hazy New England-style IPA called “She’s Intense.” The releases don’t always get the widest distribution, but the Pink Boots beers that I have tasted are as good as or better than any established commercial North Texas brewer.

For their latest collab, McKinney’s Franconia Brewing opened up their brewhouse for another original brew. Local member and brewer Betsi Good (Four Corners Brewing) wanted to make a skillset statement with the choice of a more subtle craft beer style. “Sometimes, breweries expect us to want to brew fruity, ‘girly,’ pink beers simply because we are called Pink Boots Society or because we are women,” says Good. “While we enjoy brewing fruity pink beers just about as often as any brewer, taking on more traditional, uncomplicated styles gives us an opportunity to learn, grow, and flex our muscles brewing more classic beers.”

The result is a traditional American stout (“just a stout”) style ironically named “Pretty in Pink.” It’s a moderately bitter dark beer coming in at ABV 6% brewed with chocolate malt, Midnight Wheat, roasted barley and a touch of crystal malt and oats (note the lack of heavily flavored adjuncts). Deep and robust, the beer elicits elements of cocoa, coffee (without including coffee) and campfire (without using smoked malt) with a very low sweetness, if any at all. It is robust and flavorful, almost sessionable, without straying into more popular imperial strength or relying upon barrel aging.

Members of the Pink Boots Society have more than earned full respect for their brewing knowledge and talent, and can easily hang among the most experienced brewers currently operating in North Texas. Likewise, stouts shouldn’t have to rely on stylistic extremes or gimmicks to earn respect as an appealing flavorful craft beer style that can be enjoyed year-round. PH

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