Few are the beers as synonymous with a style as Guinness.
Sure, the Guinness name now adorns a Nitro IPA, Rye Pale Ale and Blonde American Lager. But when someone says Guinness, they’re referring to the dry Irish stout brewed in Dublin and served in pubs the world over.
And few are the beers so synonymous with a particular holiday. This St. Patrick’s Day, pubs across the state will serve thousands of pints of “the black stuff.” But at a time when drinkers frequently reach for a local option, it’s surprising there aren’t more dry Irish stouts being brewed in North Carolina.
Because while “stout” translates to Guinness in Ireland, here it could refer to any number of dark, roasty ales flavored with everything from chocolate to peppers to whiskey.
But a refreshing, low-alcohol stout reminiscent of Guinness? Those are tougher to come by.
Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough will release its take on the style during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration this Friday. Founder Erik Lars Myers first brewed St. Stephen’s Green shortly after opening in March 2012.
“Part of the reason I wanted to make it was really because you don’t see many local Dry Irish Stouts,” said Myers in an email. “I really like dry, low alcohol beers, so it’s right up my alley. But overall, it’s a great style that seems to be overlooked.”
St. Stephen’s Green clocks in at just 3.5 percent ABV, compared with Guinness’s 4.2 percent. Drinkers of Guinness are likely well familiar with the beer’s slightly sour quality, which Guinness achieves by blending a small portion of soured beer. Myers uses acidulated malt to achieve a similar profile.
Popular though it is, Myers notes that sales of the seasonal beer start to wane come March 18.
Lynnwood Grill and Brewing Concern brews its Kiss My Irish Stout year-round, even if it doesn’t sell as much of it as the brewer’s popular India pale ales.
“It’s not a big seller for us, but it is a pretty easy drinking style,” said owner Ted Dwyer. “I think more people would enjoy them if they tried them.”
Now that Lynnwood has a production facility on Whitaker Mill Road (in addition to its original brewpub), it’s able to sell kegs of the beer to other accounts, which it does a lot of this time of year. Before this expansion, the brewpub kept Guinness on tap (the staff still stashes away the nitrogenated cans for the diehards).
Both Mystery and Lynnwood’s dry Irish stouts are medal winners, taking home silver and bronze at last year’s U.S. Open Beer Championship, respectively.
The state is home to a gold medal winner as well in Fonta Flora Brewery’s Irish Table Beer, which won top marks in the Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014. Look for it to make its seasonal return to the Morganton taproom this week.
A little farther west in Asheville, Wedge Brewing Co. will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at its new location (5 Foundy St.) with three new beers, including a dry Irish stout. Birdsong Brewing Co. in Charlotte will tap its own small-batch stout called Drinking Song on Friday. And on Saturday, Four Saints Brewing Co. will pour its Black River – on nitro and traditional draft – during Asheboro’s second annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.
Daniel Hartis is the digital manager at All About Beer Magazine in Durham and author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @DanielHartis.