Approaching a stout can be off-putting for the average lager-swiller. The dark, roasted malt is as unfamiliar to most as a cup of black coffee is to a double-double drinker. Over the years, I’ve developed a deep love and respect for these black beverages, and highly recommend everyone try them. But I didn’t start that way. This ‘Sublime Imbibing’ is about how I started to love stouts; and what better place to start than Guinness.

I was in a dilemma. Originally, I had settled in for the night with a glass of red wine, content to avoid the winter cold. Last minute, I was invited to a concert downtown with some friends. After some serious deliberation, and another glass or two of wine I agreed to go.

It seems to be a universal truth that a cold glass of beer on a hot day is one of the most pleasurable experiences this earth has to offer. Conversely, after a shiver-inducing walk against the wind, I was feeling rather opposed to the idea of a chilled lager. So, when I arrived at the music venue and joined my party, I opted to have a glass of Canadian whiskey instead. But after one small glass of Canadian Club neat, I realized all too quickly the downside of being a whisky snob. The loud, thrashing guitar that accompanied the evening wasn’t nearly good enough to face stone sober, and I needed to find a solution.

In desperation I returned to the meagre bar and perused the pint selection. Despite my aforementioned aversion to stouts, I was infinitely more opposed to the idea of drinking Budweiser. So, at the end of my rope, I ordered a Guiness. I mean, it was famous for a reason, right?

You’re goddamn right. While the darker, less sweet taste and milkshake texture took a minute to get used to, it was absolutely the ideal beverage. It struck me powerfully the niche that stouts fill. They’re a beer, for beer drinkers not in the mood for beer. They’re an after 8:00pm drink. With an air of refinement and class, they’ll nicely substitute an ounce of spirits, or a glass of wine. Not to say you can’t drink them for any occasion, most do. But for me, it was that realization which helped me turn the corner on stouts, and cultivate my deep appreciation for them that I currently possess.

You might be a lager lover or an IPA imbiber. You might adore English ales, or favour fruit beers. All of these have excellent offerings. But if you’re interested in broadening your beer perspective, I can’t recommend stouts more highly. They’re very different from what you’re likely used to, and its a pleasant change indeed. As always, I recommend you sip them slow. Just as long as you’re sipping them.