The many flavors of Irish Stout

Guinness has pretty much cornered the world market or Irish Stout (so much so that the #1 Guinness-consuming nation in the world is Nigeria). In American bars, Guinness is often the only stout on tap. The beer is practically a synonym for all things Irish. But there are other Irish stouts, often consumed by fiercely loyal homtown drinkers, that are available in better beer stores and pubs.

Murphy’s Irish Stout, From Cork, Ireland, is drier and more bitter than Guinness, although just as opaque and creamy. The taste of chocolate is quite noticeable, but without any candy sweetness.

A bartender in Shannon, Ireland told me that, outside of Cork, Murphy’s is ordered primarily by tourists. The Corkites (Corkubines?), however, are fiercely loyal to their beer, and rightly so.

Beamish Stout is also brewed in Cork, but has enjoyed less overseas success than Murphy’s or the big “G.” Expect a more pronounced roasted malt taste, which a lot of people characterize as “Burnt Coffee,” and a lighter body.

-Mark

Ale from the other side of the pod

I’ve developed an appreciation for Greene KIng IPA, from the Greene King Brewery in Suffolk, England. It’s a cask ale, very gently carbonated, with a classic English ale flavor that’s been largely missing from the pubs in my area for years.

Greene King is much more subtle in character than most American IPAs. Here, brewers like to beat you to death with cascade hops. The English use Kent, Golding, and, I think, Fuggles hops and produce bers with a fine balance, complex flavor, and more complete profile. Cheerio to Greene King.

-Mark

Nitrogen- it’s not just for breathing!

Ever wonder why that Guinness you’re drinking has such a smooth creamy texture? It’s carbonated with nitrogen as opposed to Carbon Dioxide, which carbonates most beers and soda pop. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller, creating a completely different texture and much prettier foam cascade when the beer is poured.

Nitrogen carbonation changes the flavor, too. More aroma is released, which does wonders for ale styles (and some lagers. Boddington’s comes to mind). Some bars have dedicated nitrogen lines through which they rotate a series of beers. If you find one of these in your neighborhood, treasure it and become a regular. A whole new world of beer enjoyment awaits.

-Mark

Brussels Lace is beautiful

Did you know there’s a term for the foam that lingers on the side of your beer glass? It’s called Brussels Lace, and supposedly it’s a measure of the beer’s freshness.

Some beers leave more lace than others. A good german Pilsener, like Dinkel Acker CD Pils will leave clingy rings down the whole length of the glass, whereas no pale or brown ale will leave any. So take Brussels Lace at face value; It’s like Anna Kournikova on the tennis court: there for the visual appeal alone.

Proper glassware- a must for beersnobbery

Have you ever really enjoyed a draft beer, yet been disappointed with the same beer out of a bottle? You percieve a huge portion of a beer’s flavor with your sense of smell, and bottles simply don’t release very much of the bouquet.

That’s why any beer geek has the proper glassware for the proper beer. Each glass is designed to best channel the aroma of that particular beer into your schnozz. Different beers have different smells, so of course you’ll need to reserve a lot of cupboard space.

Belgian trappist ales are best served in a wineglass like goblet, the grassy aroma of pilsner comes through best in a pilsner glass, and Guiness, of course, must be served in a 20 ounce imperial pint.

Pour the right beer into its proper glass and it just might make the difference between a so-so beer and one you love. Cheers!

-Mark

IPA- The well-travelled beer

Its pleasantly bitter finish and floral hop aroma has made India Pale Ale one of the most popular craft brew styles, and there’s some interesting history behind the “IPA” moniker too.

During the days when India was the crown jewel of the British Empire, beer made in England’s breweries was in demand in the colonial Indian cities. Since this was prior to the existence of the Suez Canal, the only practical sea route from the UK to India was all the way around the horn of Africa.

For the beer, this was a very long and very unrefrigerated journey. Most beers would go bad on the way. India Pale Ale, specially brewed for export to the subcontinent, had a far greater hop content than other beers. The hops acted as a preservative, protecting the beer from spoilage en route, and the colonists were treated to a very drinkable beer style that could be enjoyed with all the senses.