Time may have lost meaning, but beer drinkers still know what March means: St. Patrick’s Day, the Super Bowl of sipping stouts. That typically means Guinness, the category’s undisputed dark champion. The legendary Irish beer’s enduring popularity is easy to explain. The roasty stout drinks deceptively light, the alcohol slinking in at a svelte 4.2 percent ABV, or right in line with all those light lagers with precious little taste.
Then there’s the pour. At bars (remember bars?), proper bartenders take a couple minutes to properly pour creamy pints. In addition to patience, the secret lies in carbonation. They gas Guinness up with a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen; the element produces smaller bubbles, helping foster a denser head and smoother mouthfeel.
Guinness might’ve pioneered and popularized the approach, but numerous American breweries have hopped aboard the nitro train. They’re creating compelling stouts that contain coffee, chocolate, and even milk sugar, the nitrogenated stouts packaged for personal consumption at home. Yes, home. In a year of numbing sameness, here are five stouts to switch up your drinking routine on St. Patrick’s Day. We guarantee drinking them will be a gas.
1. Rogue Ales Chocolate Stout Nitro, ABV: 5.8%
Oregon’s venerable Rogue gave several of its most popular stouts the nitrogen treatment, including the smooth, oatmeal-steered Shakespeare Stout and the Chocolate Stout. Dutch chocolate delivers deep cocoa complexity, while the nitrogen lends a lustrous creaminess. The effect is not unlike drinking boozy chocolate milk. Go here to find a distributor near you.
2. Left Hand Brewing Company Bittersweet Nitro, ABV: 8.9%
No American brewery has leaned as heavily into nitro as Left Hand. Milk Stout Nitro is the Colorado brewery’s flagship beer, and it’s spawned numerous nitro spinoffs including the potent Galactic Cowboy imperial stout and the spiced Chai Milk Stout. Contrasting that, Bittersweet Nitro is infused with both Ethiopian and Indonesian coffee beans, tasting like strong coffee splashed with whole milk and finished with a cocoa powder shower. Go here to find a distributor near you.
3. Southern Tier Brewing Co. Nitro Iced Macchiato, ABV: 10%
No dark grains were used in the making of this beer. Instead, Nitro Iced Macchiato is an imperial white milk stout, an aromatic sleight of hand. Southern Tier brewed a creamy base beer laden with oats, then finished with coffee and lactose (milk sugar). Also excellent: Southern Tier’s nitro version of its dessert-inspired Crème Brûlée imperial milk stout. Go here to find a distributor near you.
4. Breckenridge Brewery Nitro Irish Stout, ABV: 4.8%
Breckenridge offers a range of nitro beers suited for most every season. Summer is reserved for the popsicle-like Orange Cream Ale, and fall is perfect for the Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte. Right now, though, you’ll want to crack a can of the tinder-dry Nitro Irish Stout that’s brewed with Irish barley. They sell the beer year-round so you can scratch that stout itch anytime. Go here to find a distributor near you.
5. Firestone Walker Brewing Company Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, ABV: 5.5%
Thanks to his wizardly ways with nearly every beer style, Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson earned the nickname Merlin—the namesake of this nitro milk stout. It’s a blend of six malts and lactose, which sweetly sands down any roasty edges. Nitrogen buffs the dark beer to a velvety sheen. Go here to find a distributor near you.
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