St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, so if you don’t want to go out and celebrate the night before the work week begins, or are like me and just want to avoid the crowds, there are some good Irish beers readily available in the Triangle, either in grocery stores or places like Peace Street Market, Bottle Mixx, Bottle Revolution, Total Wine, etc. You can choose among lagers, red ales, cream ales and stouts. Pick up some Irish cheese (such as yummy Kerrygold cheddar) and crackers and drink to Ireland’s most famous patron saint in the comfort of your home, no driving required! Sláinte agus táinte!
For the record, I am no beer expert by any means – I just know what I like and what I don’t. So please keep that in mind as you read my short descriptions of these Irish beers, and check out Beeradvocate’s website if you’d like to see how the experts rate them. Just know I had a lot of fun researching this post!
Of the three red ales I tried, my favorite was the Porterhouse Red Ale from the Porterhouse Brewing Company in Dublin. It is 4.4% alcohol/volume, and the label reads that it’s “a complex ale with a subtle flavor that does not overload the taste buds and [has] a nice smooth finish.” I completely agree and its smoothness is what I liked about it.
Murphy’s Red Ale is brewed under the supervision of Murphy Brewery in Cork, Ireland, by Heineken. To me, it is sweeter than the Porterhouse and has some caramel notes to it. No alcohol content is listed on the bottle. Pretty decent overall.
While Smithwick’s Ale does not label itself as a red ale, it is reddish/amber in color. It is brewed by Guinness & Co. in Dublin, and has 4.5% alc/vol. It’s pretty smooth and, like Murphy’s, has hints of caramel and some sweetness to it. I like it better on tap, especially if it’s on sale.
I didn’t realize that Wexford Irish Style Cream Ale (5.0% alc/vol.) is brewed in Suffolk, England until I got it home, so it’s technically not an Irish ale (the word “style” should have been my first hint.) It is made from a Wexford, Ireland family recipe using only Irish malt and hops. What the hell, close enough – it’s from the UK and I thought it was good — creamy, smooth and mellow. It comes in one of those nitrogen-based cans.
The Porterhouse Oyster Stout (5.2% alc/vol.), again from the Porterhouse Brewing Company in Dublin, was my least favorite stout of the three I tried. Maybe because it is brewed with oysters. Don’t get me wrong, I love oysters, but just not in my beer. Actually, to me it was bitter and I just prefer the creaminess and carbonation of Murphy’s and Guinness.
Speaking of Murphy’s Stout, which comes in a nitrogen-based can (alcohol content is not listed), it is brewed “under supervision of Murphy Brewery Ireland Ltd.” in Edinburgh (I really need to wear my glasses and read the fine print on the cans.) Again, close enough. Almost as good as Guinness, which is one of my all-time favorite beers. Smooth and creamy with slight hints of coffee and chocolate.
Before I talk about Guinness, let me jump to the only Irish lager on this list: Harp. Harp is from the brewers of Guinness and is brewed – get this – in Canada. Oh good grief – I’m not even in the UK anymore. Oh well, no problem – I’m not a big fan of lager beers anyway, except on a really hot summer day. I only bought one bottle and halfway through it I decided to pour Guinness on top and make a black and tan. Much better.
But Guinness makes everything better. Seriously, this is a pretty good lager, just not my thing.
You can buy Guinness in bottles or the nitro cans, which I prefer (actually I prefer Guinness on tap, truth be known.) Instead of reinventing the wheel, please visit my previous post: Guinness (It’s Good For You, You Know.) Don’t let the dark, rich color fool you — Guinness is not a heavy beer. It has hints of chocolate and coffee. In addition to enjoying Guinness in a glass, I also use it to cook with, from stews to cupcakes. Because it really is good for you!
So there you have it – Irish beers (from various places) to enjoy at home and not only on St. Patrick’s Day, but all year long. Sláinte!
Please drink and drive responsibly.
Eat, drink and be merry.
Follow Kel’s Café on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kelscafe