While our Irish Stout is produced and released with St. Patrick’s Day in mind, an Irish Stout can be, and should be, so much more than just a St. Pat’s Day treat. That being said, I certainly had my fair share of Stouts last night. But we shouldn’t let the word “stout” scare us off.
A lot of people bunch all styles of stout together in one group, assuming they are all super thick, syrupy, boozy and in your face. An Irish Stout couldn’t be more different. According to the BJCP, Irish (or Dry) Stout should be between 4.0-4.5% abv. Compare that to some other well known stouts like Great Divide’s Yeti (9.5% abv) and North Coast’s Old Rasputin (9% abv). The best known Irish Stout is undoubtedly Guinness, which typically ranges around 4.1%. This makes Dry Stout one of the original session beers. Why else do you think you can drink it all day long on St. Patrick’s Day? Because it is dry, it means the body is also much thinner, so it doesn’t have the “motor-oil” consistency that many non-stout fans complain about. When they are served on Nitro, it adds another complexity to the beer, contributing an almost velvet like mouthfeel that makes the next sip irresistible. Since the beer is really dry without a lot of body, carbonating the beer too high increases the impression of thinness, which I think detracts from the overall experience of this style. I don’t think nitro is appropriate for all beer styles, but nitro is seeing a bit of a resurgence in craft beer today, and when brewers do put different beers on nitro, it allows you to get a different glimpse of an old favorite. It may not always be your preferred version, but maybe it will be! Let your tastebuds be the judge.
For our Irish Stout, we go very traditional. Our percentages are roughly 68% English Pale (we use Maris Otter), 12% roasted barley (we use two different types) and 20% flaked barley. The roasted malts give off the coffee notes that originally differentiated stouts from porters. The roasted malts also contribute chocolatey, almost brownie like flavors and aromas. The flaked barley assists in the creamy mouthfeel and to help the beer from appearing too thin. Both of these are essential to making a traditional Irish Stout. For hops, we did a single addition of East Kent Goldings for bittering. We fermented with a classic English strain that gives off an appropriate amount of esters for style. Very simple and very traditional. We serve it on a blend of 75% nitrogen after carbonating the beer to about 1.3 volumes. The final stats are 4% abv, 33 IBU and 31 SRM. The cascade effect you see in these beers isn’t inherent to the style itself, but rather is a characteristic of nitro beers themselves. Nitrogen isn’t as soluble in beer as CO2 is, so the cascade you see is actually nitrogen coming out of solution. In my opinion, this beautiful side effect is part of the unique presentation for this style. Because nitro does not stay in solution for very long, we cannot do growlers of this beer.
Dry Stout is also very food friendly, with shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash being some obvious pairings. But if you really want to blow your mind, try it with oysters on the half shell. The roastiness and creaminess from the stout match the brininess from the oysters to make a superb pairing. This combo isn’t anything new, as the duo was popular with the working class in 1800’s England. Oysters may have gone up in price since then, but fortunately, Irish Stout is still very affordable.
As for the name, 25th Ave, which is Edgewater’s Main St and where our brewery is at the corner of, used to be known as Emerald Street. Back in the day, Emerald St. was lined with numerous saloons, taverns, brothels and open gambling. To read more about Edgewater’s saloon history, check out this article from our local Edgewater Echo: http://edgewaterecho.com/throwback-thursday-edgewater-and-saloons/. With descriptions like that, Emerald St was probably a happenin’ St. Patrick’s Day destination, and with Ireland being nicknamed the Emerald Isle, I think it makes perfect sense!
So even though St. Patrick’s Day has now come and gone, my hope is I’ve convinced you that this style of beer isn’t just for one week in March, but can be an all the time session beer. Sláinte!