Friday, January 29, 2010

Dragon Stout vs. Dragonstooth Stout

Usually when I travel I find some excuse for a beer-blog post along the way. Our family vacation to Jamaica earlier this month was an exception. In the places we were, the only beers I saw were Red Stripe, Guinness, and Dragon Stout. For the final three days of our trip, we were imprisoned at a cheap beach resort and the only beer choice was Red Stripe. But during the week we spent roaming the country before that, local Dragon Stout was my occasional beer of choice.

Dragon -- from the same company as Red Stripe -- seemed like a decent stout, not unlike Guinness, so I brought a few bottles home for further study. Wasn't Dragon Stout available in the US in the pre-microbrew days? I'm pretty sure I remember being able to get it in Austin in the mid- to late-eighties.

Today when I was at Beermongers looking for a stout to compare Dragon against, I noticed a bottle of the lovely Dragonstooth Stout from Seattle's Elysian Brewing. Suddenly the world started spinning, and in an attack of deja vu, I found myself back in 1986 standing in front of the beer cooler at Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin. I want a nice big beer tonight -- I can't afford the $6 for a 750 of Chimay, so should I get a Steinlager, a Dragon Stout, or a Tooth's Sheaf Stout? Something dark... Dragon? Tooth? Dragon? Tooth? Dragonstooth?

Did Elysian name Dragonstooth after that pair of international stouts? Whatever the case, I didn't need a flashback to convince me to pick up a bottle of Dragonstooth. It's good stuff. (And speaking of Tooth's, last year Jeff Alworth "rediscovered" Sheaf Stout, much to his delight).

Now let's compare Dragon and Dragonstooth. As you can see from the picture above, the Dragonstooth is pitch black; the Dragon is dark but reddish when the light shines through. They both weight in with nearly the same strength, 7.5% for the Jamaican vs. 7.45% for the Washingtonian. Let's see which is the champion.

Dragon Stout: very sweet, like Malta or cola, moderately thin mouthfeel, but lots of syrupy legs on the glass, little hops. As it warms, a little of stouty roastiness and a hint of molasses come in to join the original cola flavor.

Dragonstooth Stout: roasty almost charcoaly aroma, creamy mouthfeel, delicious toasted-grain flavor with a nice bitter wallop that lingers on the tongue. Also very leggy, but not nearly as sweet (a good thing).

Really there's no contest. Dragonstooth is a much more flavorful and polished beer than Dragon, which is too cloyingly sweet. But to give Dragon some credit, I later popped open a Guinness Extra Stout and found it much closer in flavor to the Dragon Stout than to Elysian's beer, though not nearly as sweet. And of course, if you find yourself on a tropical vacation where your drink choices are Red Stripe, rum punch, or vitamin-enhanced wine, Dragon Stout sounds just fine.

By the way, we had an excellent time on our vacation. We timed it to attend the annual Maroon Celebration in the town of Accompong in the interior of Jamaica. The Maroons were a group of escaped slaves that waged an 80-year insurgency against the British colonial powers, until the British relented and signed a treaty granting them self-rule in 1739 (the rest of Jamaica belonged to Britain until 1962). They celebrate the occasion of the treaty in Accompong every year on January 6th. This year's was the 272nd annual celebration -- the Maroons have been independent from England for longer than we have. It's a fascinating bit of living history, and also a great party.


  1. FYI - both Red Stripe and Guinness are owned by Diagio

  2. @jfwells: Yeah, I could have been clearer that the Red Stripe/Dragon brewer Desnoes and Geddes also brews Guinness under license. And D&G is mostly owned by mega-corp Diageo. Though that's no sin: their portfolio also includes several of the best Scotch whiskies.

  3. And that damn Protestant whiskey, Bushmills.

    On your recommendation, I picked up a bottle of Dragonstooth at the Freds yesterday. Looking forward to it.