Did you know that stouts originated in London? Or that the “stout” is actually an abbreviation of “stout porter,” a stronger style of the popular beer among early eighteenth century London dock workers?
Guinness was introduced, as the story goes, in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, Ireland, where the draught is still brewed today. Yet, some speculate the story is hogwash and the beer actually originated in England. To add to the confusion, several varieties—like the Guinness Extra Stout we see here in the States in cans and bottles—are brewed in other countries (for us, Canada) and on top of that, the Guinness headquarters is in London!
It’s hard to say how “Irish” the Guinness you’re drinking today really is, so in an effort to get you educatedly drunk this St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a list of Irish stouts that are either 100% Irish or Irish-inspired, and are, by American terms, craft—that means no Murphy’s, Smithwick’s, Beamish or Killian’s, either, I’m afraid—all of those are owned by either MolsonCoors or Heineken.
O’Hara’s Irish Stout
Carlow Brewing Company
O’Hara’s Brewery, or Carlow Brewing Company, is an independent, family-owned brewery located in Bagenalstown in County Carlow, Ireland. O’Hara’s Irish Stout, the company’s flagship beer, was first brewed in 1999 and has since won multiple awards as well as acclaim for staying true to Irish tradition. Robust, tart from Fuggle hops and espresso-like in its finish, O’Hara’s Irish Stout recreates a taste similar to the stouts of yore.
Find it at: Alewife (5-14 51st Ave., Long Island City); Barleycorn (23 Park Place, Financial District); Taproom 307 (307 3rd Ave., Kips Bay); Beer Authority (300 W 40th St. at 8th Ave., Midtown West); and Draught 55 (245 E 55th St. at 2nd Ave., Midtown East).
Porterhouse Oyster Stout
Porterhouse Brewing Company
Another Irish independent challenging the industrial breweries is Porterhouse, a brewpub that opened in Temple Bar, Dublin in 1996 and has since added locations in Cork, London and—wait for it—New York. The brewing company’s Oyster Stout is literally brewed with oysters, which is pretty gross, but this is actually their best selling stout to date.
Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask
Innis & Gunn
This Scottish stout is matured in Irish whiskey barrels (so it’s half Irish, right?) and yields a dark, rich, boozy pour that’ll put the proverbial hair on your chest. Surprisingly, the stout reaches 7.4% ABV—less aggressive than other barrel aged stouts, which tend to clock in above 10%—but nearly doubling the alcohol content of typical stouts, which usually hover around 4%.
Find it at: Beer Boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Moylan’s Dragoons Dry Irish Stout
Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant/Marin Brewing Company
Of the non-Irish Irish stouts, Moylan’s Dragoons is furthest from the motherland but perhaps closest to its heart. The Dragoons Dry Irish Stout is made at Moylan’s Celtic-inspired brewpub in the North Bay Region of the San Francisco Bay Area, and its unique character comes, in part, from being brewed with barley and hops imported from the UK. As for its inspiration, Dragoons was conceived to commemorate General Stephen Moylan, an Irish expat who served as commander of the 4th Continental Dragoons during the American Revolutionary War. At 8.0% ABV, it’s the most alcoholic stout on this list, which also wins it a few points.
Find it at: Malt and Mold beer store in Gramcery (362 2nd Ave. at 21st St.); possibly Malt and Mold on the Lower East Side (221 East Broadway at Clinton St.). Call ahead, this bad boy is hard to find.
Harpoon Boston Irish Stout Nitro
This may not be brewed in or near Ireland, but since many of Boston’s residents really think they’re Irish, and because Harpoon went through hell trying to figure out how to nitrogenate beer on a large scale, and because it’s on nitro which means it’s extra rich and creamy, I’m allowing it. The Boston-brewed, time-honored take on the style yields an ale noted by the brewery as “full-bodied but sessionable,” with a creamy, roasty character that’s classic enough to convince you you’re drinking a traditional Irish stout.
Find it at: Rattle n Hum (14 E 33rd St., Midtown East) where 16 oz draught pours are being served up alongside other hearty stouts from around the country.
Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout
Brooklyn, New York
A Brooklyn-based beer blogger can’t very well put out a lineup of Irish stouts without the borough’s famed Brooklyn Brewery, can she? The Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout is pretty self-explanatory—roasty, toasty, hints of coffee—and it tastes extra good knowing it’s brewed close to home.
Find it at: The Well or Uglyduckling (166 Smith St., Cobble Hill) in Brooklyn, on draft; Greenwood Park (555 7th Ave. at 19th St., South Slope) on cask; and The Shakespeare (24 E 39th St., Midtown East) on draft or cask.
Most importantly, don’t forget your Irish “cheers” out there today—Sláinte (sounds like slan-cha).
Note: Beer availabilities determined via BeerMenus.com. You might want to call ahead to make sure they’ve got what you’re looking for. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.