By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
St. Patrick's Day is approaching and with it, of course, comes the parade of green beer advertisements trying to convince people they will be more "Irish" if they drink Budweiser this March 17.
It's also a time when sales of beers like Killian's don't be fooled, it's a product of the Molson Coors Brewing Company and Guinness go through the roof.
There was a time when I was a very big Guinness drinker. It didn't have to be St. Patrick's Day. It could be any Saturday night and that's what I'd reach for. Times have changed and as I have started exploring new brewing companies and styles of beer, I found a whole new world within the realm of stouts.
Truthfully, these days, there is only one time when I might actually drink Guinness and that's when I'm doing an "Irish car bomb," an annual tradition at my fiancée's house after the St. Patrick's Road Race in Holyoke. The car bomb is a deliciously evil drink that involves dropping a shot glass full of whiskey and Irish crème into a half pint. Its inventor must have created it for the sole purpose of near-instant inebriation.
While it may insult every sensibility of some to drink a stout that isn't Irish, I suggest you at least give one of these a try this St. Patty's Day.
Stone remains one of my favorite breweries and the Russian Imperial Stout just may be one of their best. With almost pitch black coloring and thick head, it can be an intimidating beer, but the aroma of roasted malts and hint of sweet molasses will make the mouth water.
What you smell is what you'll taste in this beer with a complex blend of molasses, chocolate and coffee flavors. What's more, the beer is very easy to drink with a silky, creamy mouthfeel. It doesn't leave you feeling bloated and despite being 10.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it produces very little of that "warming" feeling some high alcohol content beers will.
I know, it's probably a sin to drink an English beer on St. Patrick's Day, but this one just has to be on the list. Lighter in hue than the Stone selection mentioned above, Samuel Smith's has deep brown coloring with hints of red and a light tan head that is also very thick. It has a sweet smell to it, complimented by an almost bread-like aroma that's the oats.
Taste-wise, it's much more simplistic, but still features a certain sweetness, with a nice bitter finish, which offers good balance to the drink. Because of its low carbonation and lighter body than a heavy stout like the one above, it is very easy to drink. It also contains considerably less alcohol at only 5 percent ABV.
I have become a huge fan of chocolate stouts and this is not the only one on this list. This beer pours black. I mean black. The nose hits you like a hammer with large amounts of dark chocolate, complimented by hints of coffee and smoky roasted malts.
Take a sip and if you're a fan of chocolate, you will be in love with this beer and the amount of dark chocolate flavor that envelops your tongue. It can, at times, have a bit of an alcoholic taste in the finish and can result, some of that warming sensation I mentioned earlier, but overall, it's a very smooth drink that feels creamy in your mouth. It's probably a beer you won't be able to have more than one or two of because it is a tad heavier and is 10 percent ABV.
If you like Guinness, you should give Beamish a try. It is very similar to Guinness in many respects, including its look and its nose. However, I find its flavor to be a bit more complex with hints of chocolate and toffee and has a dry, almost spicy finish that is better than that of its Irish brethren.
One of my major issues with Guinness is that it's a tad boring. Beamish has a little more character and still won't break the bank. It also won't stop you from enjoying the rest of the evening at just 4.1 ABV.
Just because this beer ended up last on my list certainly does not mean I think the least of it. Rather, it is one of the all-time greats, as far as I'm concerned. It pours into a glass very nicely with a dark brown coloring that is not nearly as intimidating as some other stouts and its head is large and foamy. The smell is a simple one, dominated by chocolate, but hints of cream make it very inviting.
As soon as this beer hits your tongue, you will be engulfed with flavor, sweet in the beginning with the bitter taste of a dark chocolate on the back end. The creaminess and sweetness of the drink makes for a pleasurable feel in the mouth. I won't lie. It is probably the heaviest of the stouts I have listed here and isn't an everyday drink. Still, it's the perfect stout for someone who is looking for something flavorful that won't knock them out. Young's stout contains 5.2 percent ABV.
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