Leah’s Beer School: Lesson 15

What is a White Stout?

A contentious beer style for many, the white stout has reputation for inspiring arguments among beer drinkers. Some call it gimmicky – remember Crystal Pepsi? – while others have embraced it as a fun and unique beer style. 

Although it is not officially recognized as a beer style, the White or Pale Stout, is made from a blonde or golden ale base with the same yeast and hops used in a more traditional stout. Green or blonde coffee and cacao nibs are added to impart stout-like flavours of coffee and chocolate with a balanced acidity. Many white stouts fall into the sub-category of milk stout or sweet stout, as lactose sugar is often used as a thickener to mimic the creamy mouthfeel of a conventional stout. 

When making a white stout, brewers face the challenge of striking a balance between colour and flavour. Those who value a lighter colour over all else, will use a pale malt base with crystal malts to impart the beer with a nutty, caramel and toffee flavours.  The resulting stout will be blonde or golden in colour. Other brewers will opt to use the base malts of a traditional stout, with a lighter coloured roasted barley and/or small amounts of black patent malt for a burnt husk taste. With flavours more in line with a traditional stout, this version is amber in colour and can be most accurately described as a pale stout.  

Some say a white stout is just a sweet blonde ale in the throes of an existential crisis, while its proponents celebrate the pale beer for its unique character and strong malt backbone. Whether or not it survives as a beer style or fades away as a passing fad, the white stout has opened up the doors to an interesting realm of flavourful experimentation.