Stout attracts unlikely new legion of fans as sales soar

A pint of deep, dark stout with a creamy top may be thought of as an acquired taste but it seems the silky-smooth beer is attracting a legion of unlikely new fans.

Brewer Vernon Amor isn't surprised, describing the blackest of all beers as "complex, smooth and full-bodied".

"Historically stout did have a very male image. It's got a big association with rugby, with big sporting events," he said.

But now new customers are giving it a go.

"Women and younger drinkers under 25 are trying it for the first time and realising it's an absolutely fantastic product," he said.

"It's got loads of flavour and character, great heritage and provenance as a great British beer."

Vernon's company, Wye Valley Brewery in Herefordshire, is making more of its Wholesome Stout - recently rebranded for sale on draught as Nightjar - than ever before.

"Since we've rebranded, we've seen over 100% growth in sales in the last 12 months," he said.

Supermarkets have also seen sales soar.

Last year, Tesco sold an additional 35% of the stuff.

And while Guinness is still the biggest seller, there's a huge array of new products entering the market created as part of the craft beer boom.

Among them is BrewDog's Black Heart launched last year and marketed as a "21st Century Stout".

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"In the last few years, a younger audience of drinkers has emerged who are looking for beers with great character and exceptional flavour to challenge their taste buds," said Tesco's stout buyer, Christian Clark.

"As a result of this growing interest we now stock 15 different stouts - including traditional, craft and locally brewed lines - something which would have been unthinkable about five years ago."

Pip Preece is pub manager at The Barrels in Hereford and has recently had to order two to three times more barrels of stout per week.

"During the Six Nations certainly we knew to get an awful lot of stout products in and it hasn't stopped this year - we've had to continue doing it," she said.

"So normally, it might have only been the rugby fans. Now it's anybody."

Sarah Lewis doesn't need any convincing to drink it.

"I just like the taste. It's rich and smooth and everything like that," she said.

"I just think it's good that more women are drinking it… definitely. It's not a man's drink… doesn't need to be does it?!"

It also helps sales when a celebrity like Kim Kardashian is snapped with a pint of the black stuff in hand, as she was on St Patrick's Day last year.

There's no doubt it's all brilliant news for brewers like Vernon.

He's hoping it's a trend that keeps on growing.