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How I Created … Durham White Stout

Durham White Stout
by Steve Gibbs

I suppose the germ of the idea to make a pale stout came from Martyn Cornell's book Amber, Gold & Black.

Durham Steve GibbsI always look through the bookshop at the GBBF for something new and found this little gem in 2011. Most things have been done before and our rich beer history contains lots of ideas for modern experiment, so I read history books with the expectation of firing the imagination.

Around this time there was much talk of black IPA. The term is ridiculously contradictory – black pale ale! The beer is probably a new style, so why not give it a proper new name?
Later that year, my wife Christine and I had a weekend in York and spent a few hours in the mediaeval Trembling Madness bar. Inspired by the setting and excellent beer, I began to muse on the next new beer.

Something went click inside. Martyn's exposition on stout and my indignation at black IPA came together. 'Let's make a pale stout,' I said.

Christine suggested calling it White Stout. That would make it the top end of the White range. (We pioneered pale hoppy beers in the North East from at least 15 years ago and called them White beers.)

People are sometimes incredulous at the name but, unlike black IPA, pale stout has historical precedent. The word stout means 'strong' and was applied to strong beers of any colour. Indeed, Doctor Johnson defines it as 'a cant name for strong beer'.

Strong porter was originally known as 'stout porter'. The porter bit was dropped in favour of the stout part – and stuck. Now, of course, we all know stout as a dark beer.

Some Confusion

The recipe for White Stout is composed of pale malts and Columbus hops. At 7.2% ABV, it is definitely stout. It is not an IPA, although it could be confused with IPA. I have tried to get a fuller and sweeter body than a true IPA. Some drinkers are obviously puzzled.

Somebody tweeted that they expected roast flavours – still expecting the dark stout character. It should be pointed out that roast and pale are incompatible. When malt is roasted to a high degree, it turns dark coloured.

When the beer was ready, we tweeted and got an immediate response. Drinkers were quite enthused and started calling my beer a white stout. The genre, pale stout had transformed overnight into white stout. This was flattering but not quite to my advantage.

I tried to trademark the name but, even after a hearing, I was refused. The trademark officer had only the tweets and web pages for his research and, after finding that my name was now describing the genre, refused to register the mark.

This was disappointing because not only do I not have the mark but I lost 200 quid in the process, and I still maintain I am correct. So now, it seems, a pale stout is a white stout.

When all is done, White Stout is a fine beer. We have drunk it bottle conditioned, cask conditioned and kegged. The beer is stout enough to thrive in all serving methods, each revealing different qualities. The body is full and stout; the hops are deep and aromatic.

And if the name is difficult to accept, just enjoy the beer.

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