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When Dublin City Brewing first graced these pages, I mentioned that their intended line-up included "Parnell Porter". That never materialised but they do have a new dark beer, simply called Irish Stout. The blurb on the back still has a bit about Parnell, though, so I suspect a last-minute name change. I still have no idea if this is brewed at the Parnell Street brewery, which remains all boarded up from the outside, or if it's contract brewed at Dundalk Bay. I suspect the latter.

Anyway, to the beer. I expected quite straightforward stuff from a 4.2% ABV stout, and I pretty much got it, but that's not a criticism. The body is attractively smooth and black, and there's a decent but not excessive amount of rocky foam. It smells sweet and roasty and this unfolds on tasting into caramel, liquorice and well-done toast, with the sweet side maybe a little more prominent than is ideal, especially in the finish. The mild roasted side helps balance that and there's even a little green squeak of vegetal hops. Its best feature is the drinkability: no trace of stickiness and no hard edges or odd twangs means it slips back very easily and is pleasingly refreshing. Perfect summer stout, wherever they brew it.

Backyard Brewing is a new operation, based in Tullamore but currently availing of midlands solidarity and using the facilities at Dead Centre in Athlone. Their first beer is a Cascade Oatmeal Stout. It's 5.5% ABV and looks very proper: an even jet-black with an old-ivory-coloured head on top, every inch the wholesome and old-fashioned glassful. The interloping American hop hasn't been overdone and there's a mere pinch of zest in the aroma, plus a little more in the flavour. The initial grapefruit settles to a weighty dankness in the finish. This is entirely complementary with the smooth dark chocolate and dark toast notes. Overall vibes are not far from Sierra Nevada's excellent hop-forward stout. Its mouthfeel could maybe stand to be a little fuller given the oatmeal, but otherwise I have very few criticisms to give: it delivers very well on the promise of the name, tasting at once traditional and modern, but always a proper stout. I hope this is a flagship rather than a one-off, because nobody else is making beer like it in these parts.

Before we get into the properly strong stuff, a gateway export stout from The White Hag, called Balor. This is 6.5% ABV, the recipe boosted with brown sugar. There is a certain molasses sweetness in it, rubbing up against an espresso roast and some significant hop bitterness, this time of the more traditional sort -- metallic and vegetal. It's not a beer for the soft pastry crowd, showing a robustness that's not in fashion which I enjoy scouring my palate from time to time. Again, though, the texture isn't quite right and it's a little thin for 6.5% ABV, with a knock-on harshness. Maybe I'm softer than I thought. Anyway, it's a jolly decent stout, full of flavour, if maybe a bit of an acquired taste.

Something big to start the wrap-up with. Cask is a collaboration Lough Gill did with Faith American Ales, and the can bears the signature of Faith's frontman, Kelsey Grammer, off of the telly. It's a coffee-infused milk stout which has been whiskey-barrel aged for the full Irish coffee effect. Not an original idea, but one that turns out good results more often than not. Honey is the quintessential Irish whiskey flavour for me, and this has plenty of it: a sticky honeycomb or honey-nut cereal is the centrepiece. Though 12% ABV it's not especially hot, though it is as creamy and full-bodied as one might expect. Other flavours include hazelnut, milk chocolate and a lacing of espresso in the finish. It's enjoyable, but I felt it all could have been dialled up a few notches. Beer like this shouldn't be as easy drinking as this is. Make me work a bit harder.

Perhaps the answer is Sixty Ships Down. This is another 12%-er, brewed by Galway Bay in collaboration with La Pirata. They've added vanilla and tonka beans, calling to mind, to an extent, one of the special versions of Two Hundred Fathoms they released in 2020. The first impressive feature is the head: deep brown, looking like a chocolate milkshake, on top of a velvety dark brown body. The cinnamon and brown sugar of tonka dominates the aroma, as it tends to in all beers where it features, and there's a complementary note of chocolate behind this. So far, so churro. The texture is fabulously smooth, and only a somewhat assertive kick of spirituous alcohol prevented me from slurping the whole thing down indecently quickly. Luckily the complexity builds as it goes along, and what starts as mere pinches of dark chocolate, pipe tobacco, cinnamon, nutmeg and ristretto coffee, become properly bitter and properly spicy within a few mouthfuls. By the half way point it had switched from a lush liquid dessert to a serious sipper. At €10+ a can, it's not cheap, but while I might not be rushing out for a second tin I very much enjoyed the one I had.

It's nice to see such diversity, even just in Irish stout. All of these have a welcome place in the drinking ecosystem.