Oh, the dark, mysterious stout. Some identify it as the base of a notoriously unwise cocktail known as the Irish car bomb. As if that’s not a bad enough impression, stouts — in particular dryer, Irish stouts like Guinness — picked up the nickname “liquid bread” somewhere along the line, making it sound like the beer would more likely lead to a nap than to a lively conversation.
The stout is a “misunderstood style,” according to Zac Triemert, Brewmaster at the recently opened Borgata Brewery & Distillery in the Old Market. The big differentiator between stouts and other styles is that it uses roasted barley or malt hence the darker color. “People see it as typically being heavy, high in alcohol, and something that after you have two you'll be full. But most of the traditional stouts are quite low in alcohol and fairly drinkable,” Triemert says. He thinks the stout is a great session beer, one that “has interesting flavor and that you can drink all day — it’s a great combination.”
While Borgata plans to offer two stouts — an Oatmeal Cream this spring, followed by a richer, more complex stout later on — other Omaha brewers are also helping shed the perception that dark beer is heavy. Both Upstream Brewing Company and Infusion Brewing Company have stouts on hand that fit the bill, while Benson Brewery is exploring a slightly different side of the stout, opting for a more intense, Imperial-style beer.
Despite the misconceptions about dark beers, we know Omahans have a taste for stout. According to Larry Meader, General Manager at Brazen Head Irish Pub, the bar sees a tremendous upswing in Guinness sales every St. Patrick’s Day weekend. “It’s almost a rite of passage,” he says, “that you at least have to try a Guinness.” Agreed. But while it is delicious, and Brazen Head is a great place to enjoy a pint or two, stout is not synonymous only with Guinness. Tour the town and take in some local brews this St. Patrick’s Day, too.
Where to drink locally brewed stout this season:
Upstream Brewing Company
514 S 11th St. and 17070 Wright Plaza
Denny Boy Irish Stout, 5.0% ABV
Debuting at both Upstream locations on St. Patrick’s Day, this Irish-style stout couldn’t be more festive. It’s infused with nitrogen instead of the typical carbon dioxide, giving it a soft and silky texture that cascades into a thick, creamy head. We hope the bartenders are brushing up on their beer head shamrock art for this one. The flavor is characterized by a little caramel, a little coffee, and a fair amount of dark chocolate, with just a touch of roasted barley in the finish to round it out. Brewmaster Dallas Archer tells us the name is based on the Irish ballad “Danny Boy,” but that since Denny Hynek, Assistant Brewer, took the lead on this one, it only seemed fitting to make a play on it.
Benson Brewery (in collaboration with Aroma’s Coffeehouse)
6059 Maple St.
Brewer’s Duet, 9.0% ABV
Up in Benson, collaboration is the name of the game. The brewery knew they wanted to make a coffee stout, and since Aroma’s Coffeehouse is right next door, they didn’t have to look far for quality, cold pressed beans. The result from Brewmaster Andy Elliott is what’s known as an Imperial Coffee Cream Stout. “It’s a light-your-hair-on-fire version of the milk stout,” says co-owner Ryan Miller. While the notes of coffee, toffee, and chocolate are sure to delight, the relatively high alcohol by volume level lets you know this is a more complex beer to savor, not slam, on Paddy’s Day.
Infusion Brewing Company
6115 Maple St.
Maiden Voyage American Stout, 5% ABV
Head Brewer Aaron Bush has been turning out a number of interesting stouts since opening in October. The Puddle Jumper Stout has a healthy load of extra hops, and the Sweet Elevation Crème Brûlée Stout is a rich, vanilla brew made in collaboration with Fort Collins’ Odell Brewing Company. The Maiden Voyage, however, is another one of those deliciously drinkable, well-rounded stouts, made with premium ingredients like crystal malt and midnight wheat. So called because it’s the first batch in the brewery’s newer, larger brewing system, this, like the others, is not a beer to be missed.