I remember a bygone day before Responsible Drinking was a thing, where at kicking out time every St Patrick’s Day you’d be greeted by a wobbly carnival of (mostly) blokes all wearing novelty Guinness hats, which you needed to drink seven pints of the black stuff to receive, making its way through the town towards taxi drivers who had drawn the short straw. As a seasoned pub-goer I tend to lump St Patrick’s day in with New Year’s Eve and Christmas as one of the nights I avoid the pub because let’s face it, it’s total amateur hour. St Patrick may as well be the patron saint of those people who hardly ever go out, but when they do it’s with a pack of beer-bellied men in their mid fifties all wearing the same outfit of ‘smart’ jeans, a pastel coloured shirt and shoes ‘in case we go on somewhere later’, which they never do because they’re all asleep by eleven and ringing their wives for a lift back to Knutsford.
But, St Patrick’s day doesn’t have to be about black vomit and unfortunate hats. Stouts and porters are some of the most rich and flavoursome beers you’ll ever drink, and if you’ve only ever ventured as far as the Guinness pump before, why not try and branch out this year, so you look more like a connoisseur than a three times a year drunk?
A word on Green Beer
Over in the Good Old Uncle US of Stateside, they seem to like to dye their lager green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Just….just don’t. If you must drink a green beer, make it one which is naturally green because it’s brewed with immature hops, if you can find one. Or you could try Stonehenge Brewing’s Sign of Spring, which is just a nice beer even though it has green colouring in it.
The Difference Between Porters and Stouts
The key difference is that the pump clip or label for a porter will say ‘porter’ on it, whereas for stout it will say ‘stout’.
Oyster Stout / Oatmeal Stout / Chocolate Stout
These three are great. If a standard stout is black coffee and dark chocolate, then Oatmeal stout is a latte and some Dairy Milk. Oyster stouts are bitter-sweet. I had one at the Porterhouse in Dublin which is one of the few places to actually still use oysters in the brew, but most of them are just titled oyster stout to tell you they’re good to eat with shellfish. (In ye olden days oysters were everywhere so they were served as bar snacks. Funny old world). Chocolate stout has a chocolatey taste. I mean, what did you expect?
The Big Dogs – what the chains are serving
Brewdog are pushing Jet Black Heart, an oatmeal milk stout. BD reckon the Sorachi Ace and Magnum hops give it a citrus and berry kick, but what does that give you? Terry’s Chocolate Orange? A bar of Fruit and Nut? Basically if you’re out on the lash, drink one of these first or not at all. No point in trying to nail the subtlety of the hops when this is drink number 8 of 12. It’s smooth and nice, but not cheap.
Any pubs which hold Robinson’s may well have the limited edition Trooper Red ‘n’ Black which is a porter which changes from red to black when you look at it through light (again, DON’T do this). At 5.8 % it’s not to be trifled with, and in the bottle it’s even stronger so be on your guard.
Bargain Booze now stock Titanic Plum Porter – an absolute cuddle in a glass. It’s a porter which has a bit of a taste of rich fruit cake to it, I personally think 2/3 of a pint is just enough before it starts to claw at your tongue, and so the bottles are about right.
Wetherspoons start their Real Ale Festival on the 22nd of March so they may not have an abundance of guest porters and stouts this weekend. One of the ales which they are bringing in during the festival is Darkness by Acorn Brewery which is actually an English mild but is still quite nice and uses the same hops as some other stouts and porters. And at only 3.8% you could basically have one with your breakfast.
Happy drinking this St Patrick’s Day! And remember, no hats, and no green beer. It belittles us all.