St. Patrick’s Day is here, and that means it’s time for stouts.
Specifically, St. Patty’s Day calls for Irish-style dry stouts. The depths of winter are the time for big, boozy, imperial, and barrel-aged stouts, but as spring begins to show its face, the lighter, lower-alcohol dry stouts are a way to transition to the warmer weather, but are still roasty enough to fight off the last bit of chill.
Guinness, of course, is the standard bearer, but there are plenty of other Irish-style dry stouts, both from Ireland and the United States, to toast to the American tradition of celebrating everything we think is Irish.
Here are some of the best options widely available in the U.S.
For most Americans, there are two types of beer: lager and stout. Those styles are widely confined to macro lagers and the flagship Guinness Draught, respectively. The latter is the standard bearer of Irish stouts — a superbly made beer that is low in alcohol (4.2 percent ABV) and calories.
The other traditional stouts are fantastic as well, including the Guinness Extra Stout and the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. As the Irish brewer continues to innovate, there’s a variety of other Guinness products flooding the market, including the Blonde American Lager, the Nitro IPA, and even more crafty options.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
While Guinness is the stout associated the world-over with Ireland, there’s an internal debate within the Emerald Isle — much like Miller and Bud in the U.S. — between Murphy’s, Guinness, and Beamish. Murphy's main geographic hold is in Cork, Ireland, where it is made and adored.
Of the three, Murphy’s is distinct because it’s sweeter than the other two and often associated with chocolate milk. It’s even lighter in alcohol, coming in at 4 percent ABV.
Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout
At 6.4 percent ABV, it’s boozier than a traditional dry stout, but this Oregon brew has been lauded at times for being the best dry stout in the world. Obsidian is roasty and sweet, with a good amount of hops to mellow it all out.
Deschutes is widely available in the U.S., so both Obsidian and the brewery’s fantastic Black Butte Porter offer great malty, dark alternatives to Guinness and mass-produced lagers.
Left Hand Brewing Fade to Black
Export stouts are an evolutionary branch of Irish stouts, brewed with more hops to preserve the beer for travel around the world. They retain the dry finish and roasty characteristic, but are higher in alcohol and more bitter than the lighter counterpart.
As an export stout, Fade to Black is less like Guinness Draught and more like Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. However, Left Hand's popular Milk Stout, when poured on nitro, looks and acts how Guinness so often does. Sweetened with lactose, it's much sweeter than a dry stout, so head for the Fade to Black if you are a traditionalist.
Locally across the U.S., there are plenty of great Irish-style dry stouts that aren’t packaged and distributed widely for release — just look at the three winners of the style in the 2017 Great American Beer Festival: Rockford Brewing in Michigan, PT’s Brewing in Las Vegas, and Pinthouse Pizza in Austin.
If stouts aren’t ideal, try Irish ales like Smithwick’s, Harp, and Murphy’s Irish Red. Of course, you can always reach for an Irish whiskey — maybe a little spirit named Jameson.
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