Guinness and Dry Stouts

When you think of a dry-Irish Stout, chances are pictures of Guinness’ “Perfect Pint” with cascading bubbles turning into rich, decadent beer comes to mind. Guinness was founded in 1759 and has claimed to have perfected this style of beer. However, what was the evolution of this style of beer that we know and love today?

Stout was originally a title for a beer with any significance of alcohol, regardless of the color. There was pale, brown, and later on porter, which was brewed at varying strengths, including stout porter. Eventually, during the late 18th century, Stout began to become known as a style unto itself. At this time, the cities of London and Dublin became the centers of the production of this style of beer.

As you may know, Guinness was the dominant brewery in Dublin, and through good business tactics and high-quality beer, they became one of the biggest and most well known breweries. Although they are well known now for their stout, they started by producing Ale and Porter.

In 1801, Guinness began brewing a “Guinness West Indian Porter” for export to the West Indies. In 1810, Guinness began pushing this beer locally with the catch phrase “stouter kind of porter.”

In 1819, Daniel Wheeler’s invention of black “patent” malt became available and Guinness began to use this new type of malt to make their stouts and porters. The malt itself allowed brewers to use pale base malts and only a little of the black “patent” instead of a mix of pale, amber, and brown malts. This led to a dark beer that was drier, complex, and roasty. The beginning of dry stouts.

Both Irish and English brewers began brewing porters and stouts with this process, which led to these styles of beer dominating the market in the 19th century. By the mid-19th century, these beers became ubiquitous around the globe, especially those of Guinness, which were being exported to the United State, New Zealand, and other Colonies.

In the early 1900’s stout began to replace porter as the dark beer of choice in England. Also, during this time, the term stout had changed from something meaning “strong beer” to anything that was black and brewed in England or Ireland. During this time, there was also a shift in tastes in England. The previously preferred dry stouts were replaced with lactose-sweetened milk-stouts in England and the dry, pale malt and black “patent” stouts of London were now being brewed in Ireland.

An innovation in the mid-1900s by Guinness redefined their brand and how their stouts were served. Guinness began using a “draught” dispense system of Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen.

This system was designed to duplicate the body and carbonation level of a beer pulled straight from a cask. It is also came to define their image, which is that of tiny bubbles of and a cascading head turning back into a viscous black liquid.

Although Irish stout has become more synonymous with dry, it was London that first developed this style of beer. We’re certainly familiar with Guinness and their dry-stouts, but there are many great examples of dry stouts out there. North Coast Brewing, a thriving brewery from the 1980s, which is famous for their Old Rasputin does an excellent dry stout called Old No. 38. Of course, if you’re tired of Guinness draught, Murphy’s stout is readily accessible at many locations in our area.

Tasting Notes; A dry stout is an intensely black beer with a dry-roasted character thanks to the use of roasted barley. Coffee and a moderate degree of roasted malt should define much of the character of this beer. The maltiness is well balanced by a medium to medium-high hop bitterness.

This beer should be smooth and creamy thanks to Guinness’ invention of a Nitrogen draught system that mimics a pull straight from the cask. Typically these beers are lower in alcohol, often in the session range of <5.0%abv, and is incredibly drinkable. Great for any time of the year!