A St. P’s Day Special @PGA by Ken Carman
Two of the most popular stouts in the world. Years ago I had Murphy’s and I wasn’t impressed. OK, to be fair I was in a bar in Ellicotville, NY and two people I had met were trying to get me drunk: they succeeded. So my “comparison” may not have been fair. Years later: still long ago in a different craft beer universe from now, I compared them at Seanachies: a sadly past tense Irish restaurant on lower Broadway in Nashville. Now it’s a honky tonk. Yeah, like we really needed another one of those. Barf.
I still preferred the Guinness. Caveat: they were both on tap, these were canned with the widget.
So probably 10 years later my palate has changed and I was very surprised…
Murphy’s Draught v. Guinness
Murphy’s had a deep roasted barley sense with pale malt in the nose way behind. But not out of balance. There’s like a caramel, toasted bread sense: toasted… almost burnt… but not quite. So if there’s any black patent in this (not likely for an actual Irish Dry) very, very slight: a sprinkle. A slight sweet malt sense in the distance like a light house far out in the brackish bay. No hops in the nose.
Slight hop bitter. Even less than the Guinness.
Mouthfeel: light, almost watery, yet in the glass it tends to fill out with a slight sour that lingers on the palate after swallowed. Even after sitting a while slight carbonic low carbonation sense still asserts itself.
Very well balanced with great roasted barley. Very smooth and almost creamy as the head. There’s as slight sour that lingers on the sides of the mouth and pale malt follows up like the backup band on a grand chorus. Complex without being too heavy in the body, or hoppy, or soured, for the style.
Black as hell, slight legs and a tan-ish head that hangs.
This is by far a far less complex quaff.
Head fades fade. Slight tan. Even darker than Murphys. Slight redish light shines through both, this one a tad more.
To the nose it’s a little sweeter and there’s almost a slight vegetal sense to the nose: cabbage or cauliflower-like? Roasted barley is there, but less. Slight chocolate sense which I also got with the Murphy’s. Darker chocolate with the Murphy’s, more sweet here, but not milk.
Mouthfeel is even lighter than the Murphys. Slightly sweeter and less roasted barley. A little more slick, almost oily. Lighter carbonation that barely tingles the mouth. Almost flat with little bubble/carbonation sense.
Taste: pale. Slight burnt sense as if black patent used, lightly. A hint of sweet and actually less sour that the Murphy’s, though adding a hint of soured stout is a Guinness trademark taste–wise. A bit tinny/metallic, as if roasted barley was over roasted ion a metallic bin. Hint of astringency. As it warms the sour asserts itself more. Slight hop bitter. Very slight.
Assessment: by far Murphy’s is more complex, more interesting and the better of the two.
Ken Carman lives in Nashville, TN, and Beaver River, NY. He started savoring beer in the 60s and writes several columns on the topic. He is a homebrewer and a BJCP Certified judge. Editor and chief bottle washer at PGA he also, as you can see, has a current medical condition where his tongue sticks out when cameras click. Strange woman wonders who crazy man is behind her.