Shamrock Stout | Goose Island
It appears that this time of year brings out a fair amount of seasonal beers. Irish red ales, scotch ales, and dry stouts (or serf stouts if you’re Off Color) show up in force in late February and then disappear by the end of March. We’ve done a pretty good job covering all those aspects of beer. But one more style – or rather addition – hasn’t been covered thoroughly. Mint. While it does show up at other points during the year, mint shows up in force during March, showing up in a variety of things (including milkshake IPAs). Being that you can add the chocolate malt or just add chocolate to the mash, the imperial stout makes an excellent base for a minty treat. A barrel-aged stout, you say? Even better! Enter Goose Island’s Shamrock Stout.
It appears that Goose Island first released the Shamrock Stout in 2019. It comes out every year around (or in this case, on) March 17 and can only be tried on tap at Goose Island’s Fulton St. taproom. They also fill 24 ounce crowlers to bring home. According to Goose Island, the base is a (WINK WINK) bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. So yeah, Bourbon County Brand Stout. To get it to taste more like a “shamrock”, Goose Island added chocolate, vanilla, mint and a “touch” of lactose. So yeah, a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. It clocks in at 14.2% ABV.
I touched on beer expectations in my Drowning Shamrock review and it bears repeating here. For a 3.5% ABV serf stout with adjuncts, you’ll obviously need to adjust your expectations as to what you’ll be drinking. A 14.2% ABV, bourbon BA imperial milk stout with chocolate, vanilla, and mint? My expectations correlate highly with the real thing so that’s what I’ll be judging it on.
Shamrock Stout pours pitch black. A finger of dark brown forms and then evaporates like a carbonated soda. Tilting the glass in light and some red highlights show themselves. An oily layer sits on top of the beer while some slight alcohol stains the sides of the glass when moved around. Typical stuff with (thankfully) no neon green things appearing.
Well Shamrock Stout has mint in it! The mint hits fast and furious, absolutely dominating everything else. Vanilla supports the mint quite well, adding a hint of marshmallow to things. Chocolate is there, but way in the back and not really the star of the nose flavors. The mint aroma comes closer to spearmint gum as opposed to an Andes mint. All the things you aromatically love about Bourbon County get pushed away through some combination of the adjuncts. No barrel heat tingles the nostrils and those leather, tobacco, and sometimes caramel notes that come standard on BCBS aren’t there.
Shamrock Stout does an excellent job of using the lactose. The sensation of the milk/cream really comes through on the beer and aids in its smoothness. The lactose also doesn’t make the beer overly sweet. The vanilla supports the lactose, combining to form a light marshmallow note. While not prevalent on the nose, the chocolate shows up on the finish of the sip with a nice amount of bitter dark chocolate ending things. This also helps with cutting any of the additional sweetness and keeps you coming back from more.
The mint does what a fair amount of mint beers manage to pull off – the mint exists in the mouthspace. It’s refreshing but I’d like more mint in the flavor in the beer and on the sip rather than on the finish. The 14.2% ABV hides itself well and makes it extremely easy to drink. I honestly had to stop myself from finishing the entire 24 ounce crowler, mainly because I had a fantasy baseball draft that night. (Pro tip: Do NOT draft a fantasy baseball team while drunk. Your season will be done in May.)
Much like on the nose, the Bourbon County base doesn’t show up while drinking. I think this is the only BCBS variant that uses lactose and it really does a number on all the subtleties that show up on the original. The lactose really shines on the tongue, providing a creamy sensation and coating the tongue despite having a medium carbonation. Everything combines to make Shamrock Stout extremely easy to drink and drink and drink.
So how does Shamrock Stout fare against other mint things? Pretty well, but Werk Force’s Barrel-Aged Mint Chocolate Chip Sleepy Bear still rules this very specific beer category. Shamrock Stout is fun and enjoyable to drink but there are some things I’d improve on it. A bigger chocolate presence, a better mint flavor, and more barrel and Bourbon County presence would make this beer even better. I would definitely try it again and enjoy it; a 24 ounce crowler for myself might be a bit too much. But if I’m sharing with friends, I’m all in.