My brother and I were hanging out with an Ireland native a few years back, chatting and drinking beer. St. Patrick ’s Day was right around the corner, and we asked him if the Irish drink green beer, like we do here in the United States. He looked at us and answered “No self respecting Irishman would be caught drinking a beer light enough to be dyed green.” St. Patrick ’s Day is the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to the darker, richer side of the beer spectrum, the stout.
Initially, stout referred to any beer that was stronger than normal. For years, stout pale ales and brown ales were brewed in many parts of England. Stout was first associated with the darker, porter style of beer in London in the 18th century by Arthur Guinness, and eventually instead of referring to the drink as “stout porter”, people started referring to the drink as “stout”. There is very little difference today between stouts and porters. Porters tend to use malted barley, and stouts use unmalted roasted barley. Some say it is the amount of water that is added when brewing. There really is no consensus at to a true difference. What you do get from stouts (and porters) is generally a deep, rich, roasted flavor with a hint of bitterness, much like you would get from a full bodied coffee or a dark chocolate.
Stouts have been gaining popularity in recent years, but there are still plenty of misconceptions about it. Many of them came from marketing campaigns before calories and carbs were bad. Stouts were long advertised as filling and healthful, especially milk stouts (brewed with milk sugars, which do not ferment well and lower the alcohol content) and oatmeal stouts (which adds oatmeal to the list of ingredients, giving it a sweeter taste and thicker feel). They were sold to athletes, workers, and nursing mothers because of their high carbohydrate content. While stouts still have a higher than average amounts of carbs, the calorie count and alcohol content can be relatively low. Guinness weighs in at 4.1% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is about the same as you would get in a Bud Light. Guinness also has just sixteen more calories than Bud Light in a 12 oz. bottle. Guinness is almost as light as Bud Light.
Guinness has been judiciously used in this article because when people think of stout, they think of Guinness. If you are going out for St. Pats that is probably the stout you have on your mind, but hold up. Maybe you should explore a little. Chappy’s Tap Room and Grille has a wide range of stouts, such as Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout (a personal favorite), Rogue Imperial Stout, and much hailed Lion Stout. If you are a little closer to downtown, South Park Tavern has its own selection of great beers, including Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Murphy’s (a little lighter and sweeter than Guinness). If you are planning a little party at your place, you can stock up at Belmont Party Supply, where they have a full range of fine stouts from all over the world. Mt. Carmel Stout and Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald are delicious Ohio stouts, and Samuel Adams Imperial Stout is a smooth, rich treat for your taste buds. Southern Tier Brewery, also available at Belmont, offers delicacies such as Chokolat, Crème Brule, and Mokah stouts.
If you do plan on going out and celebrating with a traditional pint of fresh poured Guinness, then heading over to The Dublin Pub should be your location of choice. They pride themselves on pouring the Perfect Pint, and it is a very unique ritual to drinking Guinness. It takes 119 seconds to pour it, and The Dublin Pub has made it part of their art. Their kegs have the appropriate blend of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to ensure the waterfall effect that is also part of pouring the Perfect Pint. If you are still on the fence about trying a straight stout, The Dublin Pub also offers quite a few variations. Guinness layers nicely on a variety of beers, such as hard cider (Black Velvet or a Snakebite), Blue Moon (Black and Blue), Newcastle (Black Castle or Black and Brown), or the traditional Bass (Black and Tan). The young lady I spoke with said they would layer Guinness on most any beer they had, as long as you ask nicely.
On St. Patrick’s Day, we get to be a little Irish. Celebrate that little part of by introducing yourself to a traditional Irish beer. There are plenty of options out there, and many establishments have their beer lists online for you to look over. And remember, no beers that are dyed green. Slainte!