Ireland · Northern Ireland

Stouts: The Orange, the Peanut, the Ginger and the Bourbon

“Tis the season for stouts”, they say. “Load of rubbish”, I reply.

Stouts are for all year – not just winter, though I’m sure there’s a better sounding slogan in there somewhere.

Let’s round up a small handful of Irish stouts, north and south, and see what happens. Before you ask, I do own more than one glass.

The Dark Druid is a series of limited edition pastry stouts from The White Hag, commencing early 2020 with a Salted Caramel before moving on to Chocolate Coconut, Mexican Hot Chocolate and now a 5.5% ABV Chocolate Orange.

The orange aroma fires out of the glass and I’m excited but the taste is suppressed. There’s lactose (love it or hate it) so it’s creamy but too thin. I let it sit and warm a bit to hopefully get more pronounced chocolate orange flavours coming through, but they don’t. I’m disappointed, I wanted more. It’s like drinking flat orange Coke, if such a thing existed.

Peanuts next and Bullhouse‘s 7.2% ABV Everybody Love Everybody – Peanut Butter Edition. Disclaimer that peanuts are my favourite nuts so I’ll try to be unbiased here. I also enjoy lactose in a beer – fight me.

It smells deliciously of sweet peanut and I’m stunned that on the first sip I’m also getting deep essences of red berry, even cherry, sweetness. But the peanut resurfaces again.

Digging further down the glass there’s a smooth and familiar milk chocolate digestive biscuit layer. It’s not a thick and boozy, heavy fireside sipper to rub your awful looking beard to while watching a random BBC Four documentary. It’s a silly beer but a tasty silly beer at that.

Speaking of sippers, there’s a welcome rebrew of Heaney‘s 8.5% ABV Can’t Catch Me gingerbread stout. This first appeared on the scene in 2017 and boasts ingredients such as black treacle, syrup, ginger and cinnamon. Is it too much?

Nope. The fiery ginger and cinnamon comes at you first before the sticky sweetness makes an appearance. I worry that this may be too sweet but soon enough the ginger edges back in again. I like ginger in a stout and this has just the right amount for me. Some may not overly approve of the syrup level but let’s be honest, this is one you’ll take your time over and it’s a single can journey – you aren’t going to be necking these one after the other. This was enough for me but I’ll have no problem buying another one, even if solely for the head sticking to the side of the glass on the way down.

Finally, to the bourbon and Larkin’s 11% ABV Morrigan. This has spent six month in a bourbon cask and it shows. Think of sticky molasses that have been soaked in sweet bourbon and you’re on the beginning of an enjoyable journey.

That journey continues to impress when a touch of coconut rears its head before succumbing to those sticky molasses again. It’s not all sweet though as the whiskey adds a belly-warming cosiness and suddenly I find myself switching over to BBC Four and rubbing my pretend beard.

Whatever stout takes your fancy over the next few cold months, remember to keep buying them when the warm yellow dot in the sky re-appears about May time.

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