Friday, March 16, 2012

Beer of the Week - the Irish stouts

Tomorrow is my second favorite holiday. So to prepare I'm comparing two of the big three Irish stouts for St. Patty's Day consumption. Beamish is the highest rated (according to Beer Advocate) of the Irish dry stouts: Guinness, Murphy's and Beamish. The drinking experience between the three is going to be very similar. Dark roasted tasting notes and a creamy head that complements perfectly. Still, Guinness grabs most all the attention here in the US while Beamish and Murphy's stand tall on their own in the background. 

So...what's the difference? First let's provide some background. I tried all them the way I prefer (when not at a pub in front of a tap), in a can with a nitro widget. You can get Guinness in a bottle and it's perfectly fine. But I like the pour from the can, not to mention the sound of the nitrogen getting kicked by the pull of the tab. Speaking of the pour, use the traditional two part pour. Guinness says the perfect pour should take 119.53 seconds. I don't employ that overly tantalizing method myself. Just tilt your pint glass at about a 45 degree angle and pour slowly until the can is only 2/3 full. Sit glass upright on table and wait a bit before pouring the remainder right down the middle.
Nama and Cord drink a LOT of beer.

Now your pint is ready to drink as you watch the bubbles antagonize you with their cascading dance.

Murphy's Irish Stout. I read somewhere recently that this is considered the craft beer in Ireland when it comes to stouts, while Guinness is the big pint on the block. Nothing wrong with that of course. But I mention that to point out that Irishmen tend to stick with one over the other, based largely on where they are from; Murphy's is brewed in Cork, Ireland and is owned by Heineken while Guinness is brewed in Dublin. The Murphy's is creamy smooth and rich with maltiness and an ABV of 4%. It's certainly not overly sweet but I pick up a lot more chocolate than I expect as well as some caramel. The finish is light, malty and then dissipates into a dryness. Entirely drinkable and seems to get a little sweeter as the glass gets lighter.

Guinness. One word. A name synonymous with Ireland and its famous dry Irish stout. This pint is going to be 4.1% ABV and is extremely flavorful. I would imagine most of you have had a Guinness or 20 in your lifetime, so you know what to expect. It's roasty and around the tongue you're going to get some coffee tastes and maybe some cocoa flavor. But the finish is completely dry and leaves you wanting more immediately. Many view the Irish stout as difficult to drink and never give it much of a chance. I find a pint of Guinness just the opposite. I think this comes down to the experience, more on that in a minute. 

A bonus Guinness has going for it is the publicity it's received as having healthy qualities, more specifically that it is good for your heart. I point this out for that moment at around 3pm Saturday when your wife frowns at you and the piles of empty cans at your feet.

Beamish. Couldn't try it. No longer available in the US. Bummer.

Overall, unless you are from Ireland and just feel an allegiance to a particular brand you can't really go wrong with any of the Irish stouts. I've omitted the O'Hara's which some claim to be the smoothest. Like the Beamish and as with any other authentic Irish stouts, I just haven't gotten my hand around that one. 

Whether you like the style or not, I think it's unfair to compare Irish stouts to other stouts that one might prefer. That's like comparing apples and oranges as types of fruits. The Irish stouts to me come down to an experience as you work through the pint. I just love the way the roasted flavors work against the creaminess of the head. The malt character and the hops work well against each other too. Some just aren't going to get into the slight bitterness, and I think that's because the expectations the eyes build of the Irish stout resembling a milk shake. I don't know, maybe not. I just know the first time I had one I was surprised at the bitterness and the dryness of it. I'm glad I gave the style another chance.

And this....this is an Irish Car Bomb. Maybe if we're lucky Nama will stop by and give us a link to the recipe in the comments. While we wait, do you like Irish Stouts? If so, which do you prefer?


Bernie said...

Top o' the mornin' to ya Bernie!

I just started really getting into stouts this past winter season (yeah right), and I tend to be a seasonal style drinker, so I am just about stouted out with this warm weather.  I may make this weekend my last stout blow-out. 

I looked at the BA lists and I saw there was an Irish Stout called Old #38 Stout from North Coast (Old Rasputin).  I may have to see if they sell that here.  If not, I think I'll go with the Murphy's since I've never tried it.

May the road rise up to meet you,may the wind be ever at your back.May the sun shine warm upon your faceand the rain fall softly on your fields.And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Bernie said...

I've got some Old 38 in my fridge actually. Had one last night. Much different taste, I guess you could say Americanized. Not nearly as dry and thicker, heavier. But good. I think I got it at Tower package in Doraville. But I've noticed more and more North Coast around the shelves in GA, so maybe it's somewhere close to you. I hear their Red Seal is especially good, at least according to Fred.

Bernie said...

My store didn't have Murphy's, Old #38, or the nitro Guinness, so I had to go with the Guinness Foreign Extra.

Cheers to you Bernie! (do they say cheers in Ireland?)

Bernie said...

Well done.

Cheers! = sláinte!