The world of stout beers doesn't start and end with Guinness (though it more or less did start there, in the early 1800s). The style of beer made famous by the Dublin brewery is a classic dry Irish stout, brewed with roasted barley and carbonated with nitrogen (rather than carbon dioxide).
But there are lots of other stouts in the world worth drinking. American-style stouts often use a higher dose of hops or additional ingredients in the brewing process; imperial stouts have a higher alcohol level; milk stouts have a sweeter flavor from lactose added during fermentation. The list goes on.
St. Paddy's may be a lovely day for a Guinness, but it's also a lovely day for a vanilla-bean stout brewed in Portland, Maine. So try to get your hands on one of these beers this weekend. St. Paddy won't mind. —Clare Goggin Sivits
Obsidian Stout, 6.4%
Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
Obsidian incorporates a touch of espresso along with chocolatey roasted barley. It was named the World's Best Dry Stout at the World Beer Awards last year. If you can get your hands on this any time of year, definitely try it.
Where to find it: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. It's also available in parts of Canada.
Mean Old Tom, 6.5%
Maine Beer Company, Portland, Maine
The addition of vanilla beans while this American stout is fermenting enhances its coffee flavors with complementary notes of vanilla and a little chocolate on the finish. This is a full-bodied beer with a slightly higher alcohol level than your typical stout.
Where to find it: Mean Old Tom is available in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the D.C. area.
Donnybrook Stout, 3.7%
Victory Brewing Company, Downington, Pennsylvania
Similar to Guinness, the Donnybrook Stout has an earthy note and a hint of Irish peaty-ness. It's lighter in body than you might expect, but that makes it very drinkable.
Where to find it: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Outside of the U.S., you can find Victory in Australia, Canada, Japan, Puerto Rico and Singapore.
Holy City Brewing, Charleston, South Carolina
This dry Irish-style stout is brewed with oysters (yes, oysters): A bushel is added to every 15 barrels of the beer during fermentation, delivering a briny flavor that complements the roasted barley. The unusual combination of salty and roasted malt really makes this brew stand out.
Where to find it: At the South Carolina brewery and throughout the state.
(512) Brewing Company, Austin, Texas
This is a sweet beer, but the chocolate and dairy flavors are balanced with Guajillo chiles added after fermentation. So, sweet and spicy!
Where to find it: Cascabel is mainly available throughout the state of Texas.
The St. Louis Brewery, St. Louis, Missouri
This is a little bolder than a typical Irish-style stout, which is why it's called "extra:" Two types of roasted barley impart flavors of chocolate, molasses and dried fruit, and a hefty dose of hops cuts the sweetness.
Where to find it: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and D.C.
Milk Stout Nitro, 6%
Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, Colorado
The Milk Stout Nitro tastes something like a thick (boozy) glass of chocolate milk, with hints of vanilla, brown sugar and coffee. It's nitrogenated (like Guinness), but there's a catch. If you've ever noticed that a can of Guinness has a little ball inside, there's a reason: It keeps the nitro carbonation moving and results in a nice, creamy pour.
This bottle doesn't have a similar mechanism, so you need to "hard pour" the beer, meaning without tipping your glass at all. Some beer geeks even recommend shaking the bottle up and down like a ketchup bottle. This helps create the perfect, creamy head, like so:
Double Stout, 8.8%
Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, California
When a beer gets classified as "imperial," that means it's a big brew: higher in alcohol, bolder in flavor and heavier in body. The Double Stout is an imperial and it lives up to its classification with a thick texture and auras of cocoa and dark fruits. And it's very boozy.
Where to find it: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. Also distributed in Canada and Japan.