Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tuesday Top Ten: Beers to Drink on St. Patrick's Day That Aren't Green

We are getting dangerously close to St. Patrick's Day.  A week from Saturday (the 14th) is St. Patrick's Day observed, and the following Tuesday is the actual day you need to wear green, lest you be pinched by a leprechaun.

If you're like me –- and you better pray to your Celtic pagan god you're not –- then you like to spend St. Patrick's Day observed sitting or standing in a crowded bar with multiple friends and playing Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, and Flogging Molly as much as you can on the jukebox, forgetting to eat anything while you steadfastly devolve over the course of the day from eagerly drinking an Irish Car Bomb at 10 a.m. to slamming water from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. so that you can make it to sundown without puking.  It's the Irish way.

Of course, last year, I spent most of St. Patrick's Day observed in a hospital room with Jester and then two-day-old Son, but I did manage to sneak over to Rocks for a pint of Guinness whilst on a midday trip back home.

About this time last year, I gave you my recommendations for St. Patrick's Day Drinking Alternatives to Green Beer.  The list was met with significant fanfare, both here and abroad, for its scathing take on green beer, irreverent point of view, and heartfelt recommendations.  St. Patrick's Day is a beer-and-whiskey kind of day, but your whiskey consumption should be directly inverse to the number of hours you expect to be drinking on St. Patrick's Day.  And there are some people out there who don't like (or steer clear of) whiskey and who would rather not drink green beer on St. Patrick's Day.  These are likely the people who are still coherent at 8 p.m. on St. Patrick's Day observed.

It is with those folks in mind that I will give you my recommendations for non-green beers to drink on St. Patrick's Day.  Bars are likely to have at least some of these, or if you're going to a house party, any of these would be a good choice.  Some are stouts, some are lagers, and some are red ales.  I'm going to go ahead and limit the list to beers available in the U.S., since any mention of Caffrey's makes me cry.  Dammit, did it again.

The list will include Irish and Irish-style beers that I like the most (i.e., I must have given it at least 3.5 stars on Untappd or Brew Gene).  It will be broken up into types of beers:  stouts, Irish cream ales, Irish red ales, and lagers.  Within those categories, I will break it down further between Irish and non-Irish beers.  Also, because I love you, the list will include more than ten beers.

Irish stouts are usually dry, very drinkable, and relatively low on the ABV spectrum, especially compared to their American counterparts. 

1.  Guinness
If you don't have a pint of Guinness on St. Patrick's Day, you are just wrong.

2.  Murphy's Irish Stout
Murphy's is Guinness's biggest competition, which is to say that it is pretty much the only other mass-produced Irish stout from Ireland that is available in the U.S.  It is also delicious.

3.  Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout
I stumbled across this last year, and I really enjoyed it.  Brooklyn does a good job of making it feel like you're drinking a real Irish stout.

4.  Killian's Irish Stout
While I refuse to put Killian's Red on this list, I do think Killian's does a pretty good job with their Irish stout.

Irish Cream Ales
Irish cream ales are generally pretty delicious, and often have the same cascading/settling effect as Guinness when poured into a glass.  Like Irish stouts, they are usually pretty low on the ABV scale (usually between 4 and 4.5%).  Caffrey's was my favorite one, but there I go again.  I am a glutton for punishment.  I have found a couple relatively suitable replacements for the beer whose name we do not speak.

5.  Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale
I picked some of this up recently in a Guinness sampler pack at Costco.  (Side note:  I love Costco.)  Smooth, malty, and creamy, it's a nice beer to drink at pretty much any time of day.

6.  Wexford Cream Ale
This one is actually brewed in the UK, but it is still pretty tasty.  You will usually find it in tallboy cans with the nitro widget, which allows the aforementioned cascade effect.

Irish Red Ales
Irish red ales are probably the kind of beer you would be most likely to think of when you think of an Irish-style beer (aside from Guinness, maybe).  They are reddish brown in color, usually nice and malty, and not very hoppy.  The bottom line is that these are good beers to sit down in a pub and drink with friends because they're tasty and not overly strong.

7.  Smithwick's Irish Ale
Other than how good it is, the most important think you need to remember is that Smithwick's is pronounced "smiddicks," so if you pronounce it with a "w," you may get laughed out of the bar.

8.  Murphy's Irish Red Ale
This is another solid standard Irish red ale.

9.  O'Fallon Rager Red Irish Ale
I grabbed a six pack of this last year, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it is.

10.  Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale
Great Lake makes solid beers, and their Conway's Irish Ale is a pretty good option this time of year.  Pictured on the label is an Irish cop.  What else is new?  But seriously, the cop pictured on the label is the grandfather of Great Lake's two co-owners.

11.  Flying Dog Lucky SOB Irish Red Ale
Frederick, Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery has good beers with vibrantly designed, cartoon labels.  Their Lucky SOB Irish Red Ale is brewed with four-leaf clovers, or at least that's what the label says.

12.  Samuel Adams Irish Red Ale
Chances are you will never go wrong with a Samuel Adams product, and this is no exception.

13.  Church Street Crimson Clover Red Irish Ale
I just bought a six pack of this a couple weeks ago because I had never heard of it.  Church Street is a brewery in Itasca, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), and Crimson & Clover is my favorite song by Tommy James and The Shondells.

Finally, Irish lagers are my least favorite of the types of beers on this list, but likely the most accessible.  If you're someone who is terrified to venture too far away from Bud Light, then these are for you.

14.  Harp
Harp is the standard Irish lager.  It's good, although I prefer it with half Guinness.

15.  Guinness Blonde American Lager
I'm not sure whether I can call this "Irish," since it's brewed in the U.S., but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt since it has a "Guinness" in its name.  I tried this a few months ago, and it's okay.  It's an American-style lager, so you pretty much know what you're getting.

16.  Rogue Irish Style Lager (also sometimes called Kells Irish Lager)
Rogue is one of my favorite craft brewers, and their bombers are usually pretty solid.  I got this one either last year or the year before, and I thought it was pretty good.  For a lager.

I'd be happy to hear of any other recommendations, other than lagers.

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