Irish Beers for St. Patty’s Day
by Monsieur Anton
Once again, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. What began as a religious holiday in Ireland, has become a day of drunken debauchery first in the United States, and now in countries across the globe. Who says America does not have a positive cultural impact on the world?
For one day, all the world is Irish, or at least they drink Irish. So, if you are going to drink like an Irishman, it behooves you to know how to drink like one, and that begins with beer. The Irish love their beer, and Americans have come to love it too. Every city and cow town has an Irish pub or two, and in that pub you’re sure to find some fine Irish pints. On St. Patrick’s Day, please eschew the Bud Lite for something that invokes images of the Emerald Isle. After all, you wouldn’t drink Manischewitz on Christmas!
Irish beers come in four basic varieties, stouts, lagers, ales (usually red) and pseudo Irish beers that are produced outside of Ireland, many times under auspices of an Irish brewery.
Guinness Guinness is the most well known stout in the world, and more than a few revelers will be lifting several pints of the legendary brew on March 17th. Guinness is a dry beer that uses toasted barley to acquire its distinctive burnt taste. The infusion of nitrogen give the beer a rich, creamy head. It is slightly bitter and a good example of a traditional stout. It’s not St. Patrick’s Day without a pint of Guinness, or even a Black and Tan.
Beamish Brewed in County Cork (you can’t get more Irish than that) Beamish is a medium to full-bodied, toasty stout with hints of coffee. It pours with a rich, creamy head due to the added nitrogen. It is fairly smooth and flavorful. Beamish finishes slightly sweet and nutty.
Murphy’s Irish Stout While still dry, Murphy’s is sweeter and lighter than it’s more traditional brethren. It is malty with a slight chocolate flavor. It is very drinkable, and is very lightly carbonated with a mildly bitter finish.
Harp One of the finer mass produced lagers on the market, Harp is brewed by Guinness. It is light gold in color and has a nice bready, malt taste with a slightly hoppy, bitter finish. Crisp and light-bodied, it is easy to drink. If you plan to go to the St. Patty’s Day parade, and continue to drink throughout the day, this may be a good option due to the light nature of the beer.
Kinsale It is written that Kinsale beers were given to the troops during the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 to help fortify them. These days it will only fortify your buzz. Light and crisp like many mass produced American lagers, this would be another beer to quaff throughout the festivities.
Caffrey’s Like some of the stouts, Caffrey’s comes loaded with nitrogen. Due to the nitrogen, the beer pours cloudy, and then clears up to a light golden color as the nitrogen dissipates. The gas gives it a creamy start that changes to a slightly sweet, mild bitterness as the beer opens up. A good food beer, this would go well with your corned beef.
Smithwick’s Reddish brown with a rich malty head, it is light-bodied, with nutty butterscotch and fruit undertones. It finishes lightly hoppy with a slightly bitter aftertaste. A good representation of an Irish red ale.
Murphy’s Irish Red Not as accomplished as Murphy’s Stout, this is still a respectable, if not spectacular brew. It is light with a grainy, almost cereal like taste. Not terrible, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
Pseudo Irish Beers
Killian’s Irish Red Probably the lightest of all the beers mentioned here, this Coor’s produced beer has become quite popular on this side of the pond. It has a malt accent which belies its light flavor. For the price it’s not a bad beer. Copper colored it is malty and not at all bitter.
Samuel Adams Irish Red Sam Adams has long mass produced beers with a micro-brew mindset, and this is no exception. It has a full flavor accented with hints of chocolate, fruit and biscuits. It finishes dry and malty.
Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale We’d be remiss if we didn’t represent with the pride of the North Coast, Great Lakes. Their Irish Ale offering Conway’s does not disappoint. It is slightly sweet and toasty with and is creamy and medium-bodied. It has a mildly sweet and hoppy finish. Like many of Great Lakes beers it comes in with a hefty (for and Irish ale) 6.5% ABV.
Before we go, a few things we should point out to help you not look like an amateur at the pub:
1) By no means should you expect your bartender to etch a shamrock into the head of your Guinness draft. It’s just plain silly and does nothing to make the pint taste better. All it will do is slow down the bartender on one of his busiest days of the year and piss him off, and a pissed off bartender is not someone you want to be around.
2) Don’t forget the whiskey! Irish whiskey is a wonderful thing, and it is somewhat milder tasting than many other whiskeys, so drink it straight. Some brands to look for are the venerable Jameson’s, Bushmill’s and my personal favorite Tullamore Dew.
3) Have a Black and Tan. Layer your Guinness with an ale. A skilled pub bartender can do this for you. Layer it with lager and you have a Half and Half.
4) Irish Car Bombs are for college kids and idiots. An Irish Car Bomb is when you drop a shot glass of layered Bailey’s Irish Cream and Irish whiskey into a pint of Guinness. Now why would you want to ruin good whiskey and beer like that? Not to mention that the name of the drink is in bad taste.
5) Finish the night with a nice Irish Coffee. Add some Irish whiskey to your hot coffee and top it with some whipped cream. It won’t sober you up at the end of the night, but it is a nice civilized way to end your St. Patrick’s Day
However you celebrate the day, enjoy yourself and please be responsible. We professional drinkers will likely be abstaining from drinking, and leaving it to the other 364 days of the year to imbibe, and we don’t want to share the roads with amateur drunks, although you’re probably weary from dealing with us the rest of the year.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
Chef Gusteau: It’s great to have Anton back!! And best of all…the topic is alcohol…how perfect. Now, it is unfairly noted that Irish cuisine is so horrible that the whiskey is the drink of choice to drown out the bad flavors. I agree that the wonderful beers listed above are perfect for celebrating the best day of the year, but the cuisine to partner with these beers doesn’t have to be so complicated. Two words. Roasted meats. Think of how heavenly a Guinness would be alongside a perfect roasted corned beef or lamb stew! How about Potato Duchesse with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions served with a Conway’s Irish Ale? For dessert, how about a Bailey’s infused Crème Brule with a glass of Jameson’s? Irish cuisine is about simple, decadent flavors that slowly developed, and are casually enjoyed with friends and family. It’s all about taking the time to enjoy time with loved ones, and celebrating the rest of the year to come. Don’t let the name fool you, Chef Gusteau is 50% Irish! Have a safe day, and enjoy with friends and family…because on March 17th, we all have a little Irish in us! And if Irish eyes aren’t smiling, drink more whiskey.