Previously in "Ode to An Old Friend" I talked about my first true love, Ithaca Flower Power. That post was wax poetic, exemplifying how much I loved that beer and how it molded me into the craft beer drinker I am today. Initially, I almost exclusively drank IPAs and wouldn't touch a dark beer. They were too mysterious with that dark color and viscous mouthfeel.
Then I drank a Guinness…
Now, I know what you might be thinking, "Guinness isn't really a dark beer" and "It has such a smooth mouthfeel!" Those are both true statements. Guinness is mahogany in color and due to the addition of nitrogen, it does have a thick, creamy head and mouthfeel. Those are the exact reasons why it is such a great starting point for someone who doesn't like dark beer.
Which brings me to the fact that there are many misconceptions about dark beer. For example, many new beer drinkers believe that dark beers are heavy or high in alcohol. In reality, they are often the lowest in alcohol and most flavorful. This can be hard to grasp because rich flavors like chocolate, caramel, and coffee are not commonly associated with beer.
Guinness is brewed with roasted barley, which attributes bitter and coffee-like flavors. Guinness is also nitrogenized. In addition to the creamy head and mouthfeel, nitrogen helps to lower the perceived bitterness of a beer. For instance, Guinness has an IBU (International Bitterness Unit) of 44, while an American Pale Ale has an IBU range of 30-50. Looking at the numbers, you can see that the actual bitterness of these two beer styles are relatively similar, but you would never suspect it if you were drinking them side by side.
From Guinness, I moved to darker beers with more intense flavors like Russian Imperial Stouts and Bourbon Barrel Aged Stouts. Due to the complexity of these styles, they deserve their own blog post. I'll save that for another time.
This is just my personal experience with dark beer, which is what I drink most of the time now. So, the next time you're out and about and you want to try something different, order a Guinness. I think you will find a rather pleasant drinking experience that may open some new doors in your drinking habits. Cheers!
Zebadiah is a lover of beer. When you see him out, he is likely giving advice on what a friend should drink based on the flavor profiles they enjoy. His favorite hobby is traveling out of state for beer unavailable to him regularly.