A Beer Sommelier's Irish Picks

Greg Engert, a restaurant beer director, shares his favorite Irish and Irish-style brews.

IRISH DRY STOUT:

TRADITIONAL: GUINNESS STOUT
Long one of the only bastions of flavorful ale available to the craft beer drinker, Guinness still stands as a classic choice for drinkers worldwide. Though exceedingly dark in complexion, the Stout is light on the palate and low in alcohol, making it both sessionable and full of character (due to the inclusion of roasted unmalted barley which provides the residual drying and mild coffee-ish accent). However, Guinness must be fresh and not served too cold; when past its prime or served more than chilled, it loses its aromatic vibrancy and may taste thin on the palate. Though dark, it is light (with less calories than most non-light beers) and thus suffers from idling away. Perhaps it does taste better in Dublin, but not on account of the recipe: The beer is produced and consumed there with a quickness that maintains quality. Too often in the US, the beer languishes in kegs or -- worse -- in draft lines, and this accompanied by a serving temperature that is way too low results in a beer that appears but a shadow of its once pitch-black self.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: PORTERHOUSE OYSTER STOUT
Ireland's Porterhouse Brewing Company offers the craft beer drinker an alternative to some of the more ubiquitous macro-brands, and has been brewing up craft iterations of classic Irish styles since 1996. They are about to open their sixth location, in New York City, but their beers have already been making a splash stateside for about a year now. Their Oyster Stout is a take on the Irish Dry Stout style made famous by Guinness, but one with an interesting twist: Shucked oysters are added during the brewing process! This does not give the brew an oyster flavor per se, but adds an enriching quality for a firmer body and an accentuated dryness in the finish. Still subtle and effortlessly drinkable, this craft-brewed Stout's recipe attends to one of the finest examples of beer and food pairings. Since a time when oysters were a staple of the commoner's diet, they have been matched with Dry Stouts and for good reason: The dark, peppery dryness of these brews complement by contrast with the bright, briny and sweet flavors of fresh oysters.

OTHER NOTABLE DRY STOUTS:

TRADITIONAL: MURPHY'S IRISH STOUT (IRELAND); BEAMISH IRISH STOUT (IRELAND)

OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH: STARR HILL DARK STARR STOUT (VIRGINIA); VICTORY DONNYBROOK STOUT (PENNSYLVANIA)

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