I have nothing against Guinness, I used to drink it all the time. And it can have astonishing properties, such as curing pre-senile dementia. What I do find rather depressing is the way that – for one day a year – lots of people in Liverpool suddenly develop a fondness for the black stuff, in much the same way as they discover previously unknown Irish heritages.
The thing is, if you’re going to drink a stout or porter for the day I can think of half a dozen better alternatives than Guinness. I don’t think Guinness travels well – I’ve drunk it all around the UK and in Dublin. And having previously rubbished the idea that it tastes nicer in Ireland – putting this down to the same sort of blarney that can affect people when they visit the Emerald Isle – I can report that this is absolutely true.
Over in Ireland, Guinness is rich, creamy, robust and bitterwseet. Over here it tends to be watery and displays a kind of shuddering bitterness that’s more akin to bile than beer.
So I suggest that you eschew this underwhelming St Patrick’s Day tradition (or, horror of horrors, drink a pint of Caffrey’s) and delve into some local alternatives. They’re nearly all from Merseyside microbreweries, so you can be sure that the warm glow you’re feeling isn’t simply your beer-coat; it’s the sort of justified smugness that enjoying a superior product from a local provider can give.
The following beers are rich, dark, malty with notes of caramel, chocolate, coffee and even berries. There’s as much to detect in a pint of good stout as there is in a fruity young Malbec. And, what’s more, they’re made with love. So see if you can track one down across Liverpool’s pubs tomorrow – and skip the St Patrick’s Day equivalent of some overcooked Christmas-Day turkey. And take that hat off.
Wapping Smoked Porter
If you’re not a fan of the heavy, bitter stouts you might find more to enjoy in a Wapping Smoked Porter. Brewed under the floorboards of the Baltic Fleet, which is a great place to spend St Patrick’s Day in itself, the Smoked Porter is arguably a little sweeter than the Stout, with some burned caramel notes that may be easier on the novice palate.
Where you can buy: The Baltic Fleet
Liverpool Organic Imperial Russian Stout
At 7.9% this is not for the faint-hearted. A strong, non-nonsense full-on stout with liquorice and burnt treacle notes. A beer to be sipped and savoured, but you’re probably best having one – and one only.
Liverpool Organic also does the Kitty Wilkinson Chocolate and Vanilla Stout (named after a genuine Liverpool heroine). Personally I’m not a fan, but it’s an interesting experience that people who are not natural beer drinkers might take to more easily.
Where you can buy: Bier, Blackburn House, Dovedale Towers, The Lodge, Kelly’s Dispensary, Mello Mello, Pi, Tavern On The Green, Augustus John’s,The Caledonia, The Edinburgh, The Grapes, The Head of Steam, The Lion, The Roscoe Head, The Ship And Mitre, The Vernon Arms, Ye Cracke
Liverpool Craft Icon Dark
At 4.8% Icon Dark is not exactly weak but it’s an approachable, warming porter with several different smoked malts, some aromatic hops and a handful of coffee beans for a rich, sweet and slightly smoky pint.
Where you can buy: The Clove Hitch
Brimstage’s Oystercatcher Stout
If there’s such a thing as a session stout, this may be it. At only 4.4% you can regard this Wirral beer with a little less trepidation than some other choices. Brimstage’s Oystercatcher stout is easily quaffable with chocolatey, cofee-y notes.
Where you can buy: The Belvedere Arms, Gallagher’s Birkenhead
Liverpool One’s Liverpool Dark
A roasted, toasted 5% stout from the Liverpool One brewery that’s a packs quite a flavour punch. It’s a dark beer but there’s some hoppy notes in there too and some sweetness, a little like a milk stout.
Where you can buy: The Liverpool One Bridewell
Nb. Some of these beers are seasonal and not always available, head over to the respective brewery websites to buy direct