We can't think of any category of beer that is more closely associated with a single brand than the venerable stout. Of course, there's nothing wrong with Guinness. It's just not the only stout out there. There are stouts out now that are even "gooder," to reference an old Guinness ad campaign, and they're all made in the United States. These substyles include some of the richest and most exciting beers in the domestic craft scene. Stouts have always been famous for their dark hue and their roasty flavors and aromas, but U.S. brewers also add oatmeal, chocolate, and even oyster shells to provide that extra oomph. This St. Patrick's Day, challenge yourself to try a different kind of stout. And feel free to go ahead and order a shot of Irish whiskey with it (Jameson or Bushmills will be just fine). Some traditions still can't be topped.
Flying Dog Oyster Stout
The history is murky, but legend has it that brewers in Victorian England discovered that the calcium carbonate in oyster shells made for a great clarifying agent in beer. Why anyone would be so pre-occupied with clarifying a pitch black brew is anyone's guess. Over time, brewers began adding the actual oysters to their beers with the logic that the bivalves would add a subtle brininess and make the roasty flavors pop. In Flying Dog's Pearl Necklace, the addition of oysters from the Rappahannock River lends a subtle note of maritime. Bonus: Proceeds from the beer benefit oyster recovery efforts in the Chesapeake Bay. [flyingdogales.com]