HAPPY Saint-Patrick’s Day!
Growing up in Montreal, Canada, March 17th meant merry all-day-drinking green beer, leprechaun hats, clovers and the famous Saint-Patrick’s Day Parade in the city centre, proudly held since 1824.
Today, we say “Sláinte” to the Irish heritage!
With a significant population of Irish-Canadians (13,43% of the population identify having an Irish heritage1), this holiday resounds with gai sounds of celtic violin, lively jigs and a grand old time with friends at the pub. This day celebrates the Irish heritage, commemorates the grave circumstances of Irish immigration and the tenacity of the Irish community in building anew for the generations to come1.
Now living in Greece and running our Greek Craft Beer Tours, I find myself discussing Ireland in a whole new realm: beer history's most fascinating stories. Saint-Patrick's now carries a different meaning to me. On this holiday, I take a moment to reflect on Irelands’ contribution to my beer-drinking journey (FYI... don't drink the green beer).
On this Saint-Patrick's day, we celebrate Ireland's their major contribution to beer:
The GLORIOUS Irish Stout.
The Irish Stout, in my late teens, boldly re-defined what “beer” meant for me. My taste-buds were flushed with thick texture and flavour. My eyes astonished at the depth of color and head of this confident beverage. My tongue knew it had entered a new dimension.
My cheeks blushed with delight as I began to truly enjoy beer.
It was in 1776 that stout beer immigrated from England to the breweries of The Emerald Isle.
To understand the that journey, we must look at one of the most commonly asked question on our Craft Beer Tours:
"What's the difference between a porter & a stout?"
Here are some basics:
First came the Porter Beer. Then came the Stout Porter. Finally, the Stout Beer emerged.
Born in London England, the Porter beer style rained as the commoner's beer by the early 1700’s as the dark, a satisfying brown beer made with roasted malty goodness balanced with a medium body and lots of hops.
The Porter name came from the people who drank it: the transportation workers, a.k.a the porters. Porter beer was widely popular due to its affordable price and inebriating qualities.
At the time, the word "Stout" only defined the higher alcohol type of Porter beer; stout/strong/robust porter. At the time,"stout" was also use to mean "bold & brave".
As brewers experimented with their recipes, they created higher alcohol Porters, then called Stout Porter, its original name.
Eventually the Stout Porter evolved into its own distinct brewing recipe and style: the Stout Beer.
In terms of the ingredients, the main difference between the two styles is the malt.
The original style, Porters, were made with the standard open-flame "brown malts" of the time, or smoked malts. When the technology of the "kilning" for grains was patented by then English engineer Daniel Wheeler 2(an indirect heating source to slowly raise the temperate of the grain and roast it), the Stout was brewed with roasted (not smoked) malts.
In reality, there are now many variations and the two styles overlap substantially. Stouts tend to have fuller body, roasted sweetness and chocolatey malt flavours. Porters tend to have lighter body, more bitter and roasted barley malt notes.
The newly popular Stout, English-style beer quickly migrated across the lands, all the way to Russia where the Imperial Stout was born.
The Imperial Stout Style, dark, velvety, dare I say seductive, was originally brewed exclusively for the Russian court of Catherine The Great in the late 1700's, deemed the highest beverage. It was brewed in London for exclusively her and her Court's enjoyment. This heightened the Stout's reputation and desirability.
CUE THE IRISH!
In 1776, beer history changed forever. Mister Arthur Guiness imported the Stout recipe to Ireland.
The Irish brewhouses and Guiness brewery honed the style into the rich, thick brew we’ve come to savour across the globe. The Irish Dry Stout was born ready to take over the world, with its creamy luscious body and terrific malty goodness.
People find themselves drinking this Irish Dry Stout, now brewed in all corners of the world, at pubs even in remote areas of all continents. It has become a staple that is embraced by old-school beer drinkers all the way to the know-it-all beer-geeks.
The Stout beer family of dark ales has since continued to multiply. You may find your favourites among: Oatmeal Stout, Coffee Stout, Milk Stout, Pastry Stout, Dry Stout, Imperial Stout, Oyster Stout, Milkshare Stout ... among its many variations.
In this day and age, the Stout is one of the world's favourite beers with its fierce flavours. As many other beer enthusiasts all over the world, the Irish Stout was a gateway into the world of Great Beer for me.
Therefore today, we say “Sláinte”
to the Irish heritage of great brewers, vibrant forward-thinking brewers & living merrily!
P.S. Something to keep the CHEER going, for a good laugh & a throwback to a fan-favourite show... enjoy this Irish Drinking Song video: