… and you know what that means, right?
If you guess a bunch of idiots will get drunk over some fake holiday, you’re correct. Everyone is not Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. If you wanna get drunk, go for it, but at least do it on actual Irish beer or beer brewed in the proper style. Here’s a little guide to help you decide what to drink and what not to drink.
First, here’s a little info on the two major Irish beer styles.
Irish Dry Stout – You see the word “stout” and automatically think Guinness. Yes, Guinness is a stout, but it’s a certain type of stout (there are multiple). Irish Dry Stout was basically brought over to Ireland from England. It’s not an originally Irish beer style but it has become synonymous with Irish beer. Irish Dry Stouts tend to be a bit drier in flavor. They’re usually lower in alcohol (between 4 and 5% ABV). You’ll notice some slight roasted flavors, a little cocoa, and some coffee. No, coffee and/or cocoa are not added to the beer. These are flavors given off by the dark roasted malts used to brew the beer. When the uninitiated think “stout”, they think “bitter”. These are not bitter beers in the grand scheme of things, though they might be bitter compared to Bud Light.
Irish Red Ale – This style is lesser known. You’ve heard of Killian’s Irish Red. That’s not an Irish Red Ale. Heck, it’s not even an ale. But a real Irish Red Ale is a lighter beer. It actually is a bit red in color, though it’s really more of a deep, dark amber that gives it that red-looking color. The beer tends to be a bit sweeter, though, again, if you’re used to Bud Light, it’s going to be bitter. It’s definitely sweeter than the stout and not quite as dry. The flavor should have a slight hint of hops to it, and be mostly malt. It may have a slight toasted quality to it. This is my pick for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, if I celebrated.
Now here’s a little guide to the beers you’ll come across (obviously written more from a New Englander’s perspective) and what you should and should not drink to properly celebrate this “special” day.
Killian’s Irish Red – Don’t drink it. Why? Because it’s not Irish. Oh, but Killian is an Irish name, right? Sure, that may be true, but it’s brewed by Coors and was never an Irish beer. But it’s still an Irish style of beer, right? Wrong. It’s a lager… a pretty crappy one at that. It pretends to be an Irish Red Ale, an actual style of beer that happens to be pretty tasty when made properly. This is not an Irish Red Ale. If you’re going to drink crappy lagers, at least drink a crappy Irish lager, like Harp.
Harpoon Celtic Ale – Drink it. Why? Because it’s tasty. This one actually is an Irish Red Ale. It’s also brewed in Boston, a city known for being very Irish. Support your local-ish brewery and drink a real Irish Red (even if it’s not from Ireland).
Guinness Draught – I’m gonna catch some flack for this one, but don’t drink it. Why? Because it’s not that good, and you wanna be original, right? If you’re gonna drink a Guinness, make it an Extra Stout. You know the beer. It’s the one that comes in the normal bottle without the widget that releases nitrogen. It’s the better of the Guinness stouts that are available in the US, and it’s actually quite good. But if you really want that smooth creamy feeling of the nitrogen, keep reading.
Beamish Irish Stout – Drink it. Beamish is a lesser known cousin to Guinness. It’s still an Irish Dry Stout, but it has a whole lot more flavor to it. The only problem with Beamish is that it’s harder to find either on tap or even in the big nitro-cans. But if you find it, drink it. It’s tasty with some nice chocolate and roasted coffee flavors (they’re not strong and over-powering, but just right). The beer is smooth and creamy and the best of what I call the “Big 3 Irish Stouts”. In Providence, I’ve seen it on tap at Local 121, but I haven’t been there in a while.
Murphy’s Irish Stout – Drink it. Murphy’s is probably the second most well known of the “Big 3” and, in my opinion, the second tastiest. It’s easier to find than Beamish, though still not quite as easy to find as Guinness. If you’re in Providence, Murphy’s Deli downtown usually has this on tap.
Murphy’s Irish Red – Drink it. Coming from an Irish brewery and being an Irish Red Ale, it’s one of the most authentic Irish beers you’ll come across. Enjoy this one.
Smithwick’s – Drink it. Again, this is an Irish Red Ale, though a very dark version of one. Also, this beer is not pronounced like it looks. Say “Smidick’s” and you’ll be pretty close to the proper pronunciation. This one is brewed by the same people who make Guinness and Harp Lager (that’s right, Guinness is no longer an independent company). If your choice is this or Guinness, make it Smithwick’s.
Harp Lager – Toss up. I’m not a fan of Harp. It’s an Irish beer, but it’s not an Irish style. It’s a lighter lager and lacks much flavor. If you need to drink a lager because you can’t stand the bold flavors of an ale (and trust me, the beers I’m listing aren’t overly bold in flavor, but more nuanced), drink it. If you want to drink real Irish beer, go with an Irish Red Ale.
Samuel Adams Irish Red – Drink it. This is a quality Irish Red Ale from one of the best known breweries in the country. It’s brewed to style, it’s inexpensive, and it’s also somewhat local.
O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale – Drink it. This is another example of an Irish Red Ale that’s actually from Ireland.
O’Hara’s Irish Stout – Drink it. This is an Irish Dry Stout from Ireland. It’s tasty, though not as good as Beamish or Murphy’s.
I’m sure I’m missing a whole ton of other beers from around the world, but this is my blog and my guide, and I admitted it’s very New England-centric. Whatever you do, have a safe St. Patrick’s Day, and try to break from the norm. Try something different. It might just surprise you.