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Russian Imperial, dry, sweet, milk, American, oatmeal: whichever it is, it's the beautiful stout. A direct descendant of the porter, it got its moniker because it was a stronger, roastier and more robust version of its mother beer--a "stout" porter, if you will. Over the years the "porter" was dropped from the name and various transformations took place in accordance with the local tastes and availability of ingredients leaving us with a wide array of this beautiful dark beer.
The dry Irish version, thanks to the likes of Guinness, is the most famous and many breweries around the world brew their own interpretation. The English stout from a brewery like Durham tends to be sweeter, especially in terms of the milk stout which has a rounder, sweeter quality. Conversely, the Americans go bolder with a lot more hop and roast character; Stillwater have got a good example. The real powerhouses these days are the Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial monsters that we're happily seeing more and more of. Think Founders KBS or Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, these beers have bags of character and flavour which'll only get better over the years.
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