Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some thoughts on St. Patrick's Day (or: Once you go Black, you Always Come Back)

Time has passed and the pain of all our misadvesnture (in alcohol or otherwise) eventually fades. As I lay in recovery from my revelry, I had time to collect my thought about a great holiday: St Patrick's Day. I humbly nail these theses to your computer screen, for your approval.

First off: do not refer to it at ‘Patty’s Day’. That would be a holiday named after someone called Patricia. It is Paddy’s Day, the diminutive of Pádraig, and the proper Irish equivalent of Patrick. Trust me. This comes straight from an Irish friend who tears his hair out to see his nation’s holiday misnamed. 

St. Patrick’s Day is, in reality, a religious holiday. In the popular consciousness it is a day for Alcoholic Adventures and overindulgence. One positive is that it drives people to try some beer that perhaps they would not otherwise. 364 days a year many people would not try a Guinness fearing it is “too heavy” or “tastes to dark”. Some people’s comfort zones are barely measurable but at least they are trying to take a baby step outside of them.

Guinness is like a training wheels beer for what the world of black beers—stouts and porters—have to offer. In it, you will find the flavour notes that are more played up in other dark/black beers. Guinness has a touch of the roast and ‘tang’ flavours from black patent malts, the creamy head you will find in nitrogen dispensed beers and of course the black-as-night colour. 

If you even remotely enjoyed Guinness then you already know you’ll like the flavours in some of the beers to follow. They are great alternatives to Guinness on any day of the year and will give you a sense of the full range of flavours and textures available in Stouts and Porters. If you are wondering what the difference between Stout and Porter is that will be the subject of a future post. For now, you can be content knowing they are basically the same thing.

This has many of the same flavours you’d find in a Guinness only kicked up a notch. Best of all, it remains as quaffable as the Irish stand-by even though it’s body is a tad more substantial. This is on nitro, with a creamy head that clings all the way down the glass. The roast flavours of the malts are more played up here than in a Guinness and the tang is downplayed and shifted into the nose and the finish.

Also, this beer tasted good cold, right off the hop. Most porters and stouts could benefit from a minute or two to warm up but this is full of flavour right away.  

Just look at it. 

The head is absolutely glorious. It looks like you could balance a coin on it. In fact, I did balance. For about a quarter second before falling to the bottom of my glass and eliciting a laugh from some patrons and one of the bartenders.

A subdued tanginess/astringency plays backup to chocolate notes. The toast-y flavours are also here, but the chocolate is more in charge. The body is butter-smooth, like chewy silk. The beer is absolutely opaque—a truly black beer. The flavours are distinct and clear, but mellow and not in your face. It has a lovely fade-away aftertaste like drops of espresso on the tongue and a smooth consistency. The body is a nice medium between the extremes of heavy/sticky and thin/watery. It is a little on the dry side, but has the body of a robust & sweet stout.

I haven’t actually tried this yet but I have had some of their other beers and they were all quite tasty. I’m sure this is awesome. These gentlemen seemed to be enjoying it.

This is just scratching the surface of the scratch in the surface of 'dark' beers. There will be more to follow. Consider this part I in my guide to black gold.

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