If you love dark beer, you probably find yourself drinking quite a few strong specimens—luscious barrel-aged imperial stouts and robust porters, rich, roasty...and boozy. But what about the sorts of dark beers that you can drink by the pint all afternoon?
'stout' on Serious Eats
The most popular tourist destination in Ireland? Nope, not the Book of Kells at Trinity College or the Blarney Castle. It's the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Situated on St. James Street in an industrial complex overlooking the rest of the city, this is where Guinness has been brewed since the stout's inception in 1759. But to clarify, the Guinness Storehouse that's open to visitors is not the physical brewery; it's a six-story (pint-shaped!) museum full of interactive exhibits explaining the Guinness brewing process and its Irish heritage.
Big stouts are a staple in the American craft brewing scene. These robust, flavorful, high alcohol beers are typically released in the winter months, and each year sees a growing number of variations on the style. Some hit the mark, others...don't. Here we've pulled together 5 of the best new stouts from across the country.
For anyone under the assumption that New Hampshire, the geographically conjoined twin of Vermont—America's greenest state; the neo-hippie birthplace of Ben and Jerry's and Phish—would produce anything but some of the baddest-ass beer in the country, I must correct you. And you're lucky I'm the one doing it, because if New Hampshire were here, she'd probably be a whole lot less polite about it.
I'll drink a stout any day of the year, but it's impossible to argue with dark beer in winter. Considering stresses that can accompany December, you're forgiven for reaching for stouts with a bit more nerve-soothing booze than usual. Enter imperial stout, or as I like to describe it to Irish stout loyalists: "three Guinnesses in one glass."
There are many myths swirling around the origins and evolution of porter and stout. First there is the notion that stout and porter refer to quite different styles; another holds that these beers were always dark, while a third tradition relies on the 'three threads' story to give porter an origin myth. All these tales are largely—and in some cases entirely—untrue.
Warming up with a homebrewed Russian Imperial Stout is the perfect way to end a chilly winter day. Rich roasted coffee and chocolate flavors are predominate in this dark and heavy beer style. The hop character can be mild or assertive, but it is always overshadowed by the massive roasty malts and warming alcohol. The high ABV and the large amount of specialty dark grains make this style a little more difficult to homebrew correctly than many of the other beer recipes we've looked at so far, but I'll walk you through it today.
Of course this is a gimmick, meant as an impulse-buy to be tucked in the toe of a Christmas stocking, but the beer's not bad. A savory, roasty stout with a meaty side, Ridgeway's Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout reminded us of coffee-rubbed ribs, and in a good way.
This year's winter variety pack from Sam Adams includes the standards—Holiday Porter, Old Fezziwig, Winter Lager, and Chocolate Bock, plus a new coffee stout made with Sumatran coffee beans. It's certainly not the richest, roastiest stout you'll find, but it's pleasantly mouthfilling and offers a a nice coffee-and-cocoa flavor.
While I've heard some people say dark beers are not for summertime, for me nothing pairs better with a grilled steak than a Dry Irish Stout. The low final gravity of the Dry Stout creates a light finish on the tongue, while the roasted coffee flavors complement food cooked over charcoal.
Chocolate and beer? Together? It may sound like a conspiracy on the part of beer-loving-guys to take back Valentine's Day, but take it from this former skeptic: Chocolate and beer can be an incredible pairing.