Brooks on Beer: Irish beer

Written by Jay R. Brooks for the Bay Area News Group and www.mercurynews.com

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone claims to be Irish, at least for the day, and most people switch to Guinness, no matter what their favorite beer might be the other 364 days of the year. Irish-style stout is a great choice, whether brewed in Ireland, the United States or Canada, where Guinness is brewed for the U.S. market.

What most people don’t realize, though, is that Guinness has at least 11 recipes worldwide. In the United States, whether it’s draft, bottle or widget, Guinness can represent not just different packaging but different recipes, too.

The other Irish stouts you’re likely to encounter are Beamish or Murphy’s, both owned by Heineken. My money’s still on the little guy, an Irish craft brewer — Carlow Brewing — whose O’Hara’s Celtic Stout is the one to find (although it’s not an easy one to locate).

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Beer Profile: Coopers Best Extra Stout

Profiled by Ken Carman

I had my first Stout in 74, and it was Extra, Guinness, in Montreal. For St. Patty’s I thought I’d do a profile on Coopers Extra Stout. OK: not Ireland, but you have to remember Australia was colonized by rejects: “criminals,” from the Empire. I’m sure more than a few were Irish.

I had this a number of years ago. I wasn’t writing profiles at the time, or judging beer. But when I started homebrewing in 79 Coopers was one of the extract malts I used.

Just a little head that fades fast. In my wife’s glass there was more head and a bit more long lasting; about a half an inch of head. Obsidian, as expected. A little sour-ish nose with some roasted barley. The first is a Guinness brew method: add just a little soured beer. The second is “as per style.” Far too may American Stouts at smaller brewpubs and micros seem to miss this step that, more than anything, separates Stouts from Porters: the addition of roasted barley.

The mouthfeel is roasted barley, pale malt and maybe some darker malts with some light carbonation: just about right. Hops so background you might as well ignore them except for balance.

Taste: more Stout than Extra. A bit of souring. But I expected more dark malt/roasted malt intensity and more alcohol. Not a ton. Just more.

I admit I am comparing this to Guinness ES and Guinness bottled (not ES). But I think that’s fair. They have come to define the style.

Good Stout, just needs “better…” and especially more “Extra” and more “special.”