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Irish Brews Beyond Green Beer and Guinness

Mar 17, 2011 03:00AM ● By Anonymous

If you truly want to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, a more fitting way is to delve into the world of Irish-made beer. While Guinness is for sure the most well-known brand, there are other stouts, red ales, and lagers available to those who don’t appreciate Guinness’ rich, nutty taste.

Take, for example, Harp Lager. Brewed in Dundalk, Ireland (for now, anyway—the company announced it will close the brewery by 2013), Harp is a true Irish beer that tastes similar to domestic lagers and was ranked as one of the Top 10 Irish beers by travel website If you’re looking to indulge in a clean, refreshing and light beer on St. Patrick’s Day, then Harp Lager might be the top pick.

For those looking for a different taste than what lagers have to offer, there’s another style of Irish beer known as Red Ale. It’s red because of its use of roasted barley, and has a well-rounded and balanced flavor, often with a yeasty undertone and slight earthy bitterness to it. You might have heard of Smithwick’s—pronounced “Smid-icks”—which is actually owned by Irish beer powerhouse, Guinness. This ruby-red brew got its start in Kilkenny, Ireland, in the early 1700s by its namesake, John Smithwick. It has a balanced flavor of bitterness from the hops added early in the boiling process, sweetness from the alt malt, and a touch of coffee from the roasted barley that gives the beer its amber hue.

But we can chat about lagers or ales until we’re green in the face—for many, St. Patrick’s Day just isn’t complete with a true Irish stout. Traditionally, stouts were the generic term for the strongest types of porters, those that came in around 7 or 8 percent ABV. Along with Guinness, classic brands of stout include Murphy’s and Beamish. The first is lower in carbonation and has a light body, at least when compared to Guinness and Murphy’s. If you purchase Beamish in cans, it comes with a fancy nitrogen “widget,” which recreates the sensation of the beer being poured from a tap and creates a creamy tan head on the beer. Murphy’s, on the other hand, has a chocolate essence to it. Heineken owns the beer, however, it is still brewed in Cork County, Ireland, making it a true Irish beer worthy of St. Patrick’s Day.

“But, wait,” you might say. “Didn’t you forget about Killian’s Irish Red?” There are certain types of Irish-style beers, such as Killian’s, that have the word “Irish” in their name, but are actually brewed right here in the U.S. In fact, Killian’s isn’t even commonly available on the Emerald Isle.

Pairing Food and Irish Beer

For some, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t complete until you’ve had a bite of corned beef and cabbage or a traditional Irish boxty. Pair these rich, Irish foods appropriately—a potato-based dish such as a boxty or a colcannon pairs well with the slightly sweet qualities of Irish red ale. Heartier dishes like corned beef and cabbage or an Irish stew can withstand the bold flavors of an Irish stout. Another option is to pair your main course with a mixed beverage known as a Black & Tan, which is half ale and half stout. Use lager instead of ale, and you have yourself a “half-and-half.” All in all, any combination is a great reason to raise your glass and say “slainte”—“cheers” in Gaelic—to St. Patrick’s Day.

And, for the record, there are no foods that pair well with green beer.