Saint Patrick’s Day has been around since 1783 and officially became an Irish holiday in 1903. It’s a religious holiday celebrating the life of Saint Patrick, who helped those pagan Irish convert to Christianity. He died on March 17th, 461 AD and each year (since 1783) his eponymous festival is observed on this day. Over the years, it has become a celebration of Irish culture in many countries throughout the world.
To most here in the states, Saint Paddy’s Day means wearing some green (Saint Patrick would explain the trinity through the use of a Shamrock), patronizing bars — especially Irish pubs — and stumbling out after consuming copious amounts of Irish booze. In other words, it’s one big party with lots o’ beer.
Stouts — dark ales usually brewed with roasted barley — have been hand-crafted since the 18th century in Ireland. Originally billed as “Stout Porters,” these raven-colored elixirs are basically strong, roasted porters. Most beer geeks associate these delicious black brews with the Emerald Isle. They are far and away the most popular barley beverage in the land of Leprechauns.
Millions of pints of Irish Stout are poured on St. Patrick’s Day. Murphy’s Irish Stout and Guinness Draught are the two most popular of the style. Guinness, in particular, is available everywhere while Murphy‘s is easily found as well. They are fierce rivals and arguments over which one is superior ensue amongst devout followers, especially after a few.
Here’s a trio of Irish Stouts to try this Saint Paddy’s Day:
Guinness Draught: The most popular stout in the world. Available on-tap, in a can, or by bottle, it uses nitrogen to create the “draught” instead of CO2, as does Murphy’s. It looks like the quintessential Irish Stout: jet black in appearance with tiny nitrogen bubbles cascading to the top. Creamy and smooth, this 4.2% ABV ale starts with mild roasted flavors that lead to a slightly sour finish. Despite the intimidating appearance, it’s really quite drinkable and made for the masses.
Murphy’s Irish Stout: Brewed since 1856, Guinness Draught’s main competitor comes via can or on-tap. In the glass it looks much the same as Guinness, with nitro bubbles racing toward the light brown head. Scents of roasted barley rise up from the pint on this 4.0% ABV Irish import as the glass lifts. Black malt notes along with some bitterness are noticeable first followed by a coffee finish. It’s bone dry at the end and roast-y throughout. More flavorful and more complex than its opposition but maybe a hair less drinkable for the Bud crowd. (If you’re looking for an Irish beer a little more approachable, try Murphy’s Irish Red Ale)
Guinness Extra Stout: The original Guinness, it’s been brewed since about 1800. It certainly looks different in the glass than the other two. CO2 is utilized instead of nitrogen and it‘s lightly carbonated — a few bubble make their way toward the top. Prominent dark malt flavors usher in the ale with black malt notes, raisin, and a hint of vanilla arriving mid-sip, along with some hop bitterness. It finishes dry and astringent with espresso and molasses. Rich and syrupy, it’s more bold than the other two and will appeal to the craft beer drinkers.