Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Great Irish Stout Challenge

Could you tell the difference between the main four nitrogenated Irish stouts? Last week a small group of us from the ICB community attempted to do it. In case you aren't aware, the 4 main stouts are Murphy's and Beamish of Cork, Guinness of Dublin and and the relatively recent edition of O Hara's stout from the Carlow Brewing Company. O Neill's pub on Suffolk Street in Dublin was the only venue where this experiment could be carried out because it is unique among Dublin pubs in that it serves all of the Irish stouts on draught.

I wasn't very confident going into this experiment because the only one I thought would stand out was O Hara's due to its fuller flavour, and so this proved to be the case, as I managed to identify it on the first sip. The others were more difficult until I got to the last which turned out to be the chocolate containing Murphy's and was easily picked out from the rest. As for the remaining Guinness and Beamish, I was stumped. I couldn't confidently tell them apart and so took the dodgy strategy of distinguishing them on serving temperature. One was far colder than the other and I surmised this was Guinness as it is often served at shockingly cold temperatures not befitting of a dry stout. I was wrong.

It was a fun evening and I recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a beer lover and as an educational introduction into blind tasting. The instigator of this game, Dave, has done some statistical analysis on the Irish Craft Brewer site. He can explain the significance of the choices we made far better than I.


The Beer Nut said...

There's a slight typo in your heading. It says "Great" where it should read "Generally Piss-Poor".

Thom said...

I was refering to the challenge itself rather than the stout which, as you say, isn't that palatable.

I had a pint of O Hara's on Saturday on the strength of the half we had at the challenge, but it left me unsatisfied. Too damn cold and smooth.

The Beer Nut said...

I'm no beer scientician, but I think that might have something to do with the nitrokeg dispense method.

Thom said...

I know I know. I was just wistfully lamenting the state of affairs.

David Curran said...

Why is Nitro so popular if it is so god awful? I agree it is awful I just wonder how people came to accept it as a good idea?

The Beer Nut said...

I think at this stage it's irrational: you have to have nitro because a pint looks and feels wrong without it. In fact, what nitro does is give you the look and feel of a well-conditioned pint, sacrificing flavour and aroma for reliability and ease of use.

I suspect that the boffins of James's Gate who came up with it reckoned that the cask-drinkers wouldn't notice the difference, plus it would allow draught stout -- previously the preserve of the urban élite -- to be rolled out to places where bottles were the only option.

Why those cask drinkers didn't make more of a fuss I don't know. Perhaps the change in serving technology happened quite gradually and they didn't notice.