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Sing A Song, Have A Dance, Drink Great Stout

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish classic

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March 15, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob

When discussing the most important historical countries in the beer world, it is not hard to make an argument for Germany, England, Belgium, and of course, the United States. However, that coveted fifth place is up for debate. Would it be the Czech Republic, with its ties to lager, especially pilsener? Might one quarrel for the inclusion of Scotland, and the varieties of Scottish ales and wee-heavies? Especially at this time of year, I have to give the nod to the island of Ireland!

The styles of beer from Éire run the gamut from light to dark, from crisp to creamy, although people often forget about Irish Red Ales and Irish Lagers. Of course, on St. Patrick’s day, most revelers will indulge in the dark, roasted liquid categorized as Irish dry called Guinness. The Draught version of this ale is king, and is what you’ll find on tap and in the black widget cans.

Almost pitch black in color, Irish dry stouts are actually very light in mouthfeel and body, creamy with little to no carbonation (giving a full effect) and extremely roasty in taste from the roasted barley and moderate hop levels. Guinness Draught is actually an extremely average yet decent beer, and my opinion of it over the years never really reached peak admiration. And, forget Guinness Draught Extra Cold, which, thankfully, seems to have moved on from most taps as gimmicks tend to do.

Guinness Extra Stout (Original) in the dark brown bottle with off-yellow label and cap should be the true Irish stout, though in some ways, it resembles and reminds me of a robust dark porter. Better flavors, better aromas, better aftertaste. The only thing this stout lacks is the dreamy sheeting action of Guinness draught rising in the pint glass. Sitting at 6.0 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) compared to draught’s 4.2 percent, Extra Stout is the all around bigger beer.

If you’re set on Irish Dry Stout, better options can be found in either Murphy’s, with a touch of chocolate and a super-smooth mouthfeel, or Beamish (if you can find it), which is a tad more smoky and just a touch bitter. Better still is O’hara’s Celtic Stout, offering more bittersweet chocolate and strong coffee flavors.

What about beers from our own shores? Several American breweries make traditional dry stout, and one the best of these is North Coast Brewing Company’s Old #38 stout. Along with Avery Brewing Company’s Out of Bounds stout, you will be sure to enjoy a real dry Irish stout better than the original. The #38 gives hints of cocoa, dark chocolate and chicory. Out of Bounds is much more coffee, but not too roasted or bitter.

If like many craft beer drinkers, you just cannot get enough hops, and want to go for an American-style version of a stout ale, you are in luck, as numerous options are available. Bell’s Kalamazoo stout is a great choice as is Mad River Brewing’s Steelhead Extra Stout. Even the stout from Sierra Nevada brewing company is a tasty little hop-filled treat. And if you’re lucky enough to be traveling out west (or have a buddy who will ship), get your hands on the amazing Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery, devine beer indeed. Here’s to a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day to you all. Enjoy the brews … Sláinte.

Gene’s Haufbrau has at more than 200 beers in bottles or on tap. While they don’t have every beer the Beer Snob writes about, they probably  have most.. E-mail the Beer Snob at publisher@westof.net.

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