Irish stout, or ‘leann dubh’ (black beer) in Irish, has a dark, rich color and when poured correctly, a nice thick creamy head. The taste of coffee and/or roasted malt normally comes out when drinking an Irish stout and some people also get a hint of chocolate in a subtle sweet aftertaste.
- Guinness – Everyone around the world knows Guinness. Based in Dublin (since 1759) they’ve brewed beer since 1756 and after starting life making ale they changed to porter (stout). At one time Guinness was the largest brewer of beer in the world and is still the largest brewer of stout.
- Beamish – Brewing since 1792 and based in Cork, Beamish was the largest brewery in Ireland for about 30 years in the early 19th century. Their flagship brew has always been Beamish Stout. This brewery is now owned by Heineken.
- Murphy’s – Established in 1856 and, like Beamish also based in Cork and currently owned by Heineken. During the last two decades of the 20th century it was heavily marketed to international beer consumers but failed to make a heavy dent in Guinness’s mighty market share.
That’s a little background on the main players in the Irish Stout game. The only real question is about taste, and like anything else that’s subjective, it is a personal preference. A local Cork bartender told me Beamish has the strongest taste and Murphy’s is really close in taste to Guinness. After tasting all three in a three night span, in the cities they are brewed, I’d agree with that.
Personally, I like Guinness (with Murphy’s a very close second) and like a lot of people, think Guinness in Ireland tastes better than Guinness somewhere else… but the Murphy’s I had in Cork also tasted better than Guinness I’ve had back home too. I’ll have to try Murphy’s in the US to find out if it’s as good as the Murphy’s in Cork, but I doubt it. Maybe the taste here is getting an Irish ambiance boost! And Beamish was a little too close to coffee for my tastes so it ran a distant third in the taste race.
In the past Irish Stout was the beer of choice for locals (Guinness in the north and Murphy’s in the south), but that’s been changing for a couple of decades. Nowadays, lighter ales, lagers,and pilsners are more popular. In fact, I saw more locals drinking Budweiser than any dark beer (as an American who likes beer with some taste, this was sad to see), but I guess foreign beer is exotic all around the world (Aussies don’t drink Foster’s but it’s popular in the UK).