Today is the day when people’s thoughts turn to Ireland, clover, and Irish beer. Longtime readers of the blog may recall our exploration of this theme in 2007, but it’s a good day to revisit the topic in brief.
In the popular imagination, of course, Irish beer is synonymous with Guinness. This is understandable, given the firm’s noble history and huge global presence. Say what you will about Guinness, it’s still Irish-owned, and sometimes it’s exactly what’s called for. It’s light, easy-going, and great with seafood. Some good news from Guinness is that in the past few months they have finally begun to market the Foreign Extra Stout in the US. It’s the best thing they make.
However, to go no further than dry stout — to say nothing of Guinness — is to deny a noble, if largely unknown, brewing tradition its day in the sun. Yes, there’s Murphy’s and Beamish, now both owned by Heineken and, since 2008, brewed at the same brewery (we shed a tear at the thought). Barely deserving mention is Killian’s Irish Red Ale — which is neither Irish, nor Red, nor an Ale (it’s made by Coors).
No, we prefer to focus on the unsung heroes of Irish beer, which, given economy of scale, you’re unlikely to find on draught or in the market on this side of the Atlantic: but if you do, give them a go! The one non-mega-corporate (Guinness also makes Smithwick’s, in case you were curious) Irish beer you are likely to find in the US is O’Hara’s, from Carlow Brewing. Carlow is the largest of the current generation of craft breweries currently elbowing their way into the Irish beer scene. Carlow markets O’Hara’s in both a Dry Irish Stout and a Red Ale. Seek it out and have some. It won’t let you down.
If you’re in Ireland, may we recommend the Galway Hooker or anything from the Franciscan Well.
Otherwise, American craft breweries (and homebrewers, lest we forget!) offer their own noble contributions in the Irish vein: Harpoon makes a widely-available Red Ale, and the Three Floyds Brian Boru comes highly recommended.
At the end of the day, we issue only one direct request to the reader: please, please, don’t drink green beer. After all, if it’s light enough to successfully be dyed bright green, it’s probably not beer to start with.