Last year, around this time, we discussed how to avoid green beer while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Most of you listened, your lives have prospered, and success greets you at every corner. A few of you could not resist the hype, so now I have to take time away from my important beer snob duties to fix the damage you’ve done. We’re not hunting for the Higgs Boson here, people. We’re simply striving for a little more artisan tradition in the mugs and glasses of the beer we consume. Many of us are probably ignorant as to why this whole St. Patrick’s Day thing happens and, although most of us are not of Irish descent, glomming onto their celebration probably adds an increased sense of community through the revelry. These old traditions are great excuses for us to get familiar with the beer styles and cultures we may not immediately consider. Here are some fine Irish-inspired ales to look out for, all month long.
Red Rock Irish Ale
Poured on tap, the Irish Ale is a dark but brilliant ruby-red color with a finger of foam on top. The nose is full of sweet malt and just a touch of smoky peat. The taste starts with roasted malts—the caramel profile is slightly subdued, but it adds a nice balance to the sweetness. Chocolate and hints of toffee come next with a tea-like bitterness rounding out the end. The finish is slightly bitter with pine resin.
Overview: Even though it has an ABV of 4.0, this Irish Ale has a nice, moderate feel in the mouth. While not too over the top, it gives your tongue a pleasant “flavor party” without putting you on your ass.
Donovan’s Irish Breakfast Stout
The Breakfast Stout looks just like a stout should: deep black and opaque with some eggshell froth on top. The nose starts with a rich, full coffee aroma, oatmeal, chocolate and a slight fruitiness. The rich body is backed with flavors of creamed coffee and then a rich, malty, silky oatmeal. It finishes with a lingering Guatemalan coffee spiciness. Milk chocolate and a slight fruitiness round out the end, finishing in that nether region between sweet and dry.
Overview: This beer needs to have some warmth to it to get all the complex coffee flavors, oats and fruity yeast aromas to your mouth properly. If at all possible, be patient—it’s worth the wait.
Smithwick’s Irish Ale
This beer is much darker than more common examples of an Irish Red. It almost slides into that dark brown territory. The nose is nutty with nice toasty malts, but not much in the way of hop aroma. It has a nice, sweet malt profile up front with toasted cereal for balance. The malts dry out toward the middle, leading to a more balanced state. The end is dry and slightly bitter with an herbal/earthy finish.
Overview: This is the classic example of an Irish-made ale. The nice herbal and malt balance keeps true to the Irish Red style. Another nice thing about this beer is that it’s available year-round at your local liquor store—definitely worth getting to know.