The production of stout in Ireland is big business. The Irish have always prided themselves on their brewing industry. At the beginning of the 19th century there were over 200 breweries in the country and although today only twelve remain today they still produce huge quantities of beer. Of all the beer that is produced 34% is stout and this is either consumed in the country or exported overseas. Ireland stands 5th in the world for beer consumption per capita and it is generally accepted that the Irish enjoy a pint.
The national drink of Ireland is Guinness which is a dry stout. One usually associates Ireland with Guinness in the same way as New Zealand is associated with rugby union, but Guinness is not the only stout to be produced in Ireland. Stout is produced by mixing roasted malt or roasted barley, with hops yeast and water. The first type of stout that was produced was porter during the 18th century and much of it was being exported to Ireland. It wasn’t long before the Irish opened their own breweries.
In 1776 Sir Arthur Guinness started to brew porter from his St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. He then added black patent malt which was to give it the trademark black colour. Black patent malt is barley malt which has been heated up to 200 degrees in the kiln. As well as adding the colour it also gave it the distinctive taste. Stout in the 14th century meant “proud” or “brave” and Guinness in 1820 called their new brew stout porter to infer that it was a more potent beer. Soon porters were replaced by the term stout and nowadays it causes much conjecture whether porters and stouts should be separate terms.
Guinness’s success soon flourished and by 1858 was being exported as far away as New Zealand. Today the drink accounts for 19% of all beer sales in Ireland. Guinness merged with the Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. In 2015 it was estimated that Diageo’s beers were worth 7.4 billion pounds. Another major producer of dry stout is Murphy’s. Established in Cork in 1856 it is now owned by Heineken International. There has been a long rivalry between the Murphy’s of Cork and the Guinness of Dublin.
Regional differences apart there is little to differentiate between the two stouts. In terms of taste Murphy’s tends to have a more chocolate flavour whereas the Guinness appears to be richer in its yeast flavour. Beamish stout has the reputation of being the best Irish stout. Founded in Cork in 1792 this is another company that has been acquired by Heineken International. Similar to Guinness experts claim that it is lighter and a touch spicier than its infamous cousin. As well as the large breweries producing stout there are smaller operations in business. The Porterhouse Company is actually Ireland’s largest independent brewery. It is famous for its Oyster stout and as the name suggests Porterhouse mixes oysters in with the mixture during brewing.
This does leave the stout with a subtle seafood taste and is not advised for vegetarians to drink. The popularity and success of the company has led to it opening branches in London and New York.
Stout breweries today are now found all over the world. However, it is difficult to find a country that has brewed the “dark stuff” quite as passionately as the Irish have over the centuries.