While the first reference to stout beer in 1677 may be descriptive in nature, its loose connection to a specific style of beer comes in 1750, when note was made of “stout butt beer.” This could be interpreted as a strong porter. If the same ingredients were used to make the stout version of porter, then it would be safe to assume that this beer was in fact a little darker and more substantial, as more raw materials would be employed. Though known as stout, the beer itself little resembled the stouts of today. Brown, pale and amber malts were the primary grain components of the day, and none of those would have given a stout the signature black color with which we are now familiar. Instead, the brew was probably varying degrees of brown. About this same time, the first family of modern stout was beginning to make its presence felt in Ireland.
Guinness, by far the most famous brewing family in Ireland, and arguably the world, had been brewing beer in County Kildaire since the first half of the 18th century. The patriarch Richard’s son, Arthur, purchased a brewery in 1756, moved to Dublin in 1759, and leased a brewery lying fallow at St. James’s Gate. This would become the famous brewery of the Guinness namesake.
Arthur was as shrewd as he was aggressive. St. James’s Gate was a respected and cherished venue, located at a coveted watershed and easily accessible to the barley-growing regions of Ireland. In keeping with the times, Guinness brewed both porter and ale. Though imported English porter was cheaper because of tariffs, Guinness weathered the storm and made brewing profitable. By 1769 he was exporting his Extra Strong Porter to England. In 1799 he abandoned regular ale brewing and concentrated on porters.
The final, and perhaps most significant, innovation contributing to the development of modern stout occurred in 1817. A kiln for roasting barley was invented that mimicked the capabilities of coffee roasters. Both malted and unmalted barley was employed immediately in the production of porter and stout. Subsequent innovations in kilning allowed the production of pale malts, which when combined with small amounts of roasted versions, produced dark beers that were of the highest quality and easy to reproduce. Brown beers became black beers, and these were undoubtedly the forerunners of today’s stouts (and porters). In 1820, Guinness changed the name of its Extra Stout Porter to simply Extra Stout.
Guinness became so powerful in the latter half of the 19th century that its brews were not only the most popular beers in England, but the brewery was the most prolific in all of Europe.