Saint Patrick's Day is fast approaching, and if you've paid attention since you reached legal drinking age, you'll know that it is one of the dreaded 'amateur hours' of beer drinkers.
The holiday, which occurs on the 17th of March, is a Christian feast day celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. The normal abstinence from eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day (since it falls within Lent), which has encouraged the celebration via alcohol consumption.
So, while you're out with your green shirts, green hat, and green shamrocks adorning who knows which part of your body, skip the green beer and go for something dark, roasty, and surprisingly low in alcohol.
10. - Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Samuel Smith Old Brewery - 5% ABV
Using water from a well bored in 1758 (yeah, we weren't even a country yet), Samuel Smith Old Brewery brews this traditional oatmeal stout using a lot of the old ways: using large stone open fermentation vessels. The use of oatmeal in the mash gives the beer a nice creamy mouthfeel.
8. - Old #38 Stout - North Coast Brewing Co. - 5.6% ABV
Hailing from Fort Bragg, Calif., Old #38 is firm west coast stout with a toasted character and coffee notes of dark malts. This is a good interpretation of the dry Irish stout style by a small American craft brewery.
7. - Patio Tools Dry Irish Stout - Cigar City Brewing - ABV - 5% ABV
If you can find it, get it. Cigar City's take on the Irish stout has bitter, but not harsh, coffee and chocolate flavors. It's quite balanced and a quick drinker. Bonus points if it's available on nitro.
6. - Roasted Cocoa Stout - Due South Brewing Co. - 6.1% ABV
Heading to the brewery on Monday? Then down this all night. Big cocoa and bitter chocolate flavors, slightly acidic, but not as creamy as other stouts. Pulling this one through the nitro taps produces the best experience.
5. - Young's Double Chocolate Stout - Wells & Young's Ltd - 5.2% ABV
A very British beer, brewed with "real dark chocolate and chocolate essence". Though 'chocolate essence' may sound off-putting, this chocolate stout produces an enjoyable semi-sweet chocolate flavor that goes surprisingly good with a full Irish breakfast. Not as creamy as some other stouts, it's great for those that don't necessarily want something as bitter as a full roasted stout.
4. - Left Hand Milk Stout - Left Hand Brewing Company - 6% ABV
Probably the most famous milk stout from Longmont, Colo., in flavor it falls in the grey area between a sweet milk stout and a regular stout: bittersweet chocolate, some roasted coffee, and a decent mouthfeel. Another solid American craft interpretation.
3. - Guinness Draught - Guinness Ltd. - 4.2% ABV
Surprised it's not number one? Though it's everywhere, at every Irish bar and pub in the land, this is still the classic dry Irish stout. Super thick and creamy, mild bitterness, that tan lacing that clings to the glass. If you order glass after glass of these, you won't be sorry... with a low ABV, it'll take quite a few before you feel too bad.
2. - Guinness Foreign Extra Stout - Guinness Ltd. - 7.5% ABV
Consider this the quiet older sibling that goes off to university and comes back a changed person. The yellow label flags you down for this higher hopped and high ABV brew originally designed as a way to export Guinness beer to markets outside of the British Isles. It has a more acidic character, espresso flavors and some caramel warmth over its 'domestic' brethren.
1. - Murphy's Irish Stout - Murphy Brewery Ireland Limited - 4% ABV
Yes, I believe that this stout from Cork, Ireland beats out the heavyweight entrant from Dublin. If you can believe it, Murphy's is slightly drier and ever so slightly more sweet than a Guinness. There's a little more complexity on the aroma, even a hint of bread dough.
So there we have it. A list of beers to try. Agree/disagree with these picks? Let me know on Twitter, I love discussing beer. Or, if you're just looking for a place to hang out on Monday, try one of these ten places to celebrate in the area.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.