What are the best Irish stouts to enjoy this St Patrick's Day?
To a lover of all things food and drink, few things conjure up the essence of Ireland quite like a pint of the black stuff.
Irish stout is typically a dark beer, brewed with roasted malt or barley, water, hops and yeast. Here are five of the best irish stouts to seek out:
Guinness - St James's Gate Brewery in Dublin
Over 5 million pints of Guinness are sold in the UK each year on St. Patrick’s Day, and over 13 million pints of Guinness are raised on St. Patrick’s Day across the globe, which amounts to more than 150 pints every second.
Guinness has been marking St. Patrick’s Day for over 15 years, and the St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin produces 4 million pints of Guinness every day.
In 1991 the brewers of Guinness won the prestigious Queen's Award for Technological Achievement for developing the widget which enabled Guinness Draught to become the first ever draught beer available in a can.
Today, Guinness is popular around the world and sold in more than 150 countries. And finally - gas bubbles travel downwards, instead of upwards, which is what brings a pint of Guinness to life with its famous surge and settle motion.
Shandon Stout - Franciscan Well Brewery, Co. Cork
Craft brewing and brew pubs offer quality, locally-crafted beers and more choice for drinkers, says owner of the Franciscan Well, Liam McNeill.
Founded in 1998, the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork is built on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery which dates back to the year 1219.
Head brewer is Russell Gare, who came to Cork to help install the new brewery and ended up staying on. He has worked in craft breweries in the US and has brewing qualifications from the Institutes of Brewing in Chicago and London.
Russell brews once or twice a week during the winter but this increases to three times per week during the busier (and thirstier) summer months.
The Franciscan Well brews what it calls ‘naturally better beers’ - tradition and naturalness are of utmost importance and the preservatives, chemicals and processing aids often used in the brewing process have no place here.
The mains water from the local reservoir provides the brewing liquor and is untreated, save for being filtered.
The brewpub houses three serving vessels located directly behind the the bar which dispense the beer straight to the taps.
Shandon stout is a creamy, dry stout, made in the local Cork style. It is only available at the Franciscan Well, and is the only remaining craft-brewed Cork-style stout, which differs from other Irish stouts because of their strong, distinctive roasted flavour.
At 4.3% ABV, Shandon is named after the famous Shandon steeple on Cork’s north side.
Molly’s Chocolate Stout - Hilden Brewery, Co. Antrim
Hilden Brewery is Ireland’s oldest independent brewery. Set up in 1981 by Seamus and Ann Scullion, it is set in the Georgian Stables of Hilden House, and the head brewer is their son, Eoin Scullion.
Molly’s Chocolate Stout (ABV 4.2%) is one of the College Green beers produced at Hilden Brewery.
The stout is available in both bottle and draught format from the restaurant Molly’s Yard in Belfast, John Hewitt Bar, Wineworks off-licence and the Vineyard, along with several other pubs in England and Ireland through a variety of distributors (including Californian Wines in Dublin, Small Beer Company in Lincoln, The Real Beer Agency in Leicester and Brewers Wholesale based in the West Midlands).
You can also buy Molly’s Chocolate Stout at www.yourround.com.
Molly’s Chocolate Stout is a dark chocolate-coloured beer, as the name suggests, with a full-bodied character showing through from the use of whole roasted oats. A unique coffee taste is also clearly distinguishable, thanks to the presence of chocolate malt.
Black Rock Irish - Dungarvan Brewing Company, Co. Waterford.
Produced in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Black Rock Irish Stout is a smooth, lightly carbonated stout with a rich, chocolatey flavour along with herbal hints and notes of vanilla and aniseed.
Black Rock Irish Stout won the Bronze medal at the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2011, and is the only bottle-conditioned Irish stout, brewed and bottled by hand on-site at Dungarvan in small batches of 800L.
Bottle-conditioned beers allow a natural carbonation process to occur within the bottle which eliminates the need for the addition of further gasses to the beers. Conditioning in the bottle in this way means the finished product is naturally carbonated, unfiltered and un-pasteurised, and doesn’t require further enhancers or additives.
The Dungarvan brewery was set up by brothers-in-law Tom Dalton and Cormac O'Dwyer, who launched their first beers in April 2010.
Cormac started as a home brewer, and after ten years took his hobby up a notch and trained to brew at a commercial level. He is now the head brewer and is especially proud of Black Rock.
Tom worked as a Quantity Surveyor before starting the brewery with Cormac. He now handles the sales and distribution end of the brewery.
Black Rock Irish is currently only stocked in Ireland (check out this list of stockists) but it will be available on cask in The Porterhouse Covent Garden as part of their Irish Beer and Whiskey festival from March 24th.
O’Hara’s - Carlow Brewing Company, Co. Carlow
Founded in 1996 by the O’Hara family, Carlow Brewing Company is an independent Irish Brewery, run by a family with a passion for the craft of brewing, and a desire to revive the brewing tradition which was once common throughout Ireland.
The brewery is situated in the historical hop and malt growing area of Ireland, the ‘Barrow Valley’ region, in Bagenalstown in County Carlow.
Brewery founder, Seamus O’Hara, aimed to revive not only the traditional brewing culture of Ireland but also the qualities found in Irish beers from a bygone era. Carlow Brewing Company prides itself on brewing beers as they used to be brewed, using natural ingredients and no artificial additives.
Seamus believes this leads to a superior quality product, with robust body, taste, flavour and aroma, and says this is borne out by the many accolades and awards bestowed on the company’s brews.
O’Hara’s Irish Stout was voted the world’s number one Irish stout by a panel of 33 International Judges at the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2000.
O’Hara’s, which has a malty, buttery taste with hints of coffee, is available in a wide variety of bars and restaurants throughout Ireland, and also as far afield as New York City.
Written by Heidi Scrimgeour
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