Anatomy of a Style: Dry Irish Stout

Anatomy of a Style: Dry Irish Stout

As we approach America's favorite drinking holiday and begin to indulge on green beers and Shamrock Shakes, I thought it was apt to explore the beer created by St. Patrick himself (not really), Dry Irish Stout. Long seen as a favorite around here, this style has been misunderstood and it's time to set the record straight on this approachable crowd-pleaser.

We can't talk about Dry Irish Stout without first telling a little about Porter, it's highly confusing predecessor. Born around the early 16th century, many believe Porter was a brown beer brewed from mainly lightly kilned brown malt which yielded a full-bodied and toasty brew. Later in the century, the style changed with the rise of the use of pale malt which served to lighten the body a bit. And when Daniel Wheeler in 1817, figured out how to  make black patent malt, the style changed once more, yielding a more roasty incarnation. As you can see, these changes have created a style with a very murky history but out of its turbid past, Dry Irish Stout was born and pioneered by none other than the Guinness family.

Porter's popularity in the 18th century led to many upstart brewers eager to cash in on the action, one of whom being Arthur Guinness and his son, Arthur Guinness II. Following in the footsteps of his father, who started the brewery in 1759 in Dublin, Guinness II began to combine pale malt with black patent malt to create a beer that was less sweet after fermentation than using normal brown malts, resulting in a drier beer. Dubbed the leann dubh or "black beer", this remained the brewery''s signature recipe until the mid 20th century when Guinness changed from black patent malt to roasted unmalted barley and raw unmalted barley; this was probably done as a tax dodge as unmalted barley was taxed at a lower rate than malted barley. Just another way that the clever Irish were able to skirt the laws of their oppressors. 

Nowadays, Dry Irish stout can be found in every Irish Pub from Philadelphia to Dublin and for many drinkers it becomes their first experience with a beer not served from a warm keg in a frat house basement. Although there are many incarnations of the style today, they all share a penchant for having a coffee-like roastiness, surprisingly light body and a creamy texture. Guinness has become the benchmark of the style and remains to be a damn good beer, just make sure to avoid any green colored food dye!

TECHNICAL SPECS

Bitterness: 30-40 IBU

ABV: 3.8-5%

SRM(Color): Black

Gravity: 1.038-1.048

Commercial Examples: Guinness Draught, Beamish, Sly Fox Brewing O'Reilly's Irish Stout

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