Easter Sunday seemed like the appropriate time to sample four finely brewed stouts, or porters, and discuss their relative merits and quirks. Before hordes of family descended on the avocado ranch for the traditional dinner, my girlfriend arrived with six-packs of Guinness, Road Dog, Old Rasputin and Black Butte Porter. For a proud Irishman like myself this was far more interesting than chocolate eggs and marshmallow peeps.

Historically, stouts and porters were produced in the early 1700s, originating in London and crossing the sea to Ireland. There, Arthur Guinness and Sons cemented the word into our lexicon. Today there are literally dozens of stouts and porters to choose from in the local pub or liquor store.

Our evening began with a general appreciation of the aesthetic design and labeling of the bottles and from there we swiftly moved into the dirty work of tasting the different offerings.

Road Dog

First on the tasting podium was Road Dog, brewed by Flying Dog of Colorado, with a finely decorated label by artist Ralph Steadman. Their boast on the bottle is “Good Beer, No Shit.” The consensus among the four tasters was that it had a mild to medium malted beverage flavor with a chocolate aftertaste. One of the four pronounced the beer to have a “weak last taste.”

Score (out of 5 Easter Bunnies) — 3 Bunnies

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Next came the wonderfully named Old Rasputin’s Russian Imperial Stout, brewed by the North Coast Brewing Co. of Fort Bragg, California. This devilish, bearded gem lived up to its moniker, proving itself to be a “sweet, lively” tipple with a toasted, nutty taste. Old Rasputin is a full-bodied stout with a solid hoppy taste to it. This stout also has strong hints of chocolate, a suitably Easter Day touch.

Score — 4.5 Bunnies

Guiness Stout

Surprisingly, Ireland’s Guinness Stout was not my favorite, edged out by the livelier taste of the Russian entrant. Arthur Guinness’s formidable brew was deemed to be bittersweet and chocolate-tinged, with a satiny smoothness to it as it went down. This staple of Irish pubs was also declared to be somewhat “flat” and neutral compared to the others.

Score — 4 Bunnies

Black Butte Porter

The final entrant in the Easter porter-fest was Black Butte Porter from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. The Northern offering was pronounced to be a zesty, zingy and mildly-carbonated brew. An inoffensive and delicate porter, this well constructed keeper was found to be caramel-chocolate flavored and easy on the palate.

Score — 4 Bunnies