This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Nick Costa.
With everyone’s favorite drinking holiday just around the corner, it’s time to dig out every piece of green clothing you own, and prepare for a marathon day of imbibing. But just because you’re dressed head-to-toe in green, doesn’t mean your beer should be too. I’ll be damned if the pubs back on the Emerald Isle would ever allow a patron to raise a glass of neon green lager.
It’s time to start celebrating with quality–and not quantity–on St. Patrick’s Day. Here, The Hop Review has selected 13 brews to help you celebrate like a (sorta) true Irishman on March 17th. And with relatively higher ABVs across the board than that nasty green stuff, you will still be pretty toasty come lunch time. And if you can’t get your hands on any of these brews, just run to your cellar and grab the first barrel-aged stout within reach. It’ll do just fine.
CHICAGO, IL/GALWAY, IRL
Style: Oatmeal India Pale Ale
This pale ale just so happens to be the first collaboration between a U.S. and Irish brewery. The Oatmeal IPA combines American hops (among those: Columbus & Citra) alongside Irish oats. The result is a welcoming–but not overpowering–tropical IPA, with a creamy, pillowy finish. Finally, an Irish ale, state-side, that’s not simply a foreign extra stout.
Style: American Stout
A deep, rich stout full of notes of bittersweet chocolate and roasted barley. The roast from the barley is further elevated with the addition of coffee from local Boulder roasters, OZO Coffee. If that wasn’t enough Irish for ya’, the brew is then aged on Tullamore Dew soaked oak chips, that adds complexity with just enough whiskey and barrel character–all of your favorite Irish beverages, in one pint.
KANSAS CITY, MO
Style: Irish Red Ale
When craft beer’s most recent wave came about 10 or so years ago, red ales were plentiful, if not mandatory, on brewery menus. While the style has tapered in popularity, it’s now a refreshing departure to reach for one once in a while–especially on St. Pat’s. Boulevard’s early spring seasonal is a ‘Midwestern tribute to the legendary red ales of old Ireland.’ It combines six kinds of pale and roasted barley malts to provide a rich, toasty flavor and that trademark reddish-copper hue.
Style: Irish Dry Stout
Ready-to-go in some fresh new packaging, Breck’s Nitro Irish Stout gives you that creamy, pillowy soft mouthfeel with that beautiful cascading effect (if you pour it into a pint). Irish malts and heavily roasted barely impart flavors of dark chocolate and coffee. It’s far from a sweet stout, finishing nice and dry–as a stateside alternative to the trademark ‘black stuff.’ And at 4.8% you will be putting down a few of these cans long into the afternoon.
Style: Irish Red Ale
A beautiful garnet ale, although a little hazy—no, not that kind of hazy—when poured from the bottle, is topped with a creamy head. Brewed using 100% UK hops (don’t tell your fellow Irishman), they lend a earthy presence throughout. In contrast, the crystal and Vienna malts add notes of caramel, toffee, and buttered toast for a smooth and complex flavor.
Style: Irish Ale
This brilliant amber ale doesn’t say much when you bring it to your nose, but as soon as it touches your lips you get hit with caramel malt sweetness, with big notes of biscuit and roasted nuts. A mild earthy hop bitterness is also there to round out the malt sweetness, but takes a backseat in this situation. It’s medium-bodied and well carbonated, creating a smooth, dry finish and drinks much easier than its 6.5% ABV.
Style: Irish Extra Stout
You’re all probably thinking right now, “Wait, how original is Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day?” Well, the nitro draught version we are accustomed to across the U.S. has only existed since the late 1950s–it was developed in conjunction with the famed Irish brewery’s 200th anniversary. The Guinness we have here is Extra Stout, or “Original.” Only available in bottles, this is nearly the same beer Irish immigrants have been drinking since 1821. Dark malt flavor, roasted barley, and a bittersweet finish. Unlike the Draught version, Extra Stout is carbonated, giving it more of a hop bite and crisp mouthfeel.
Style: Irish Stout
O’Hara’s has existed in the Barrow Valley (known as Ireland’s traditional malt and hop-growing region), since 1996. Practically pioneering what is now considered ‘Irish craft beer’, they’ve been brewing modern takes on traditional styles for over two decades now. And their Irish Stout provides a fantastic alternative to the more omnipresent Guinness varieties. It’s dark and rich with hints of black licorice and coffee, with a finish that’s welcomingly smooth.
Style: Imperial Red
G’Knight is great imperial red, with a notable story–brewed in tribute of Gordon Knight, a Colorado craft beer pioneer who tragically passed fighting wildfires. This hefty, in-your-face, amped up red has plenty of caramel malt sweetness that is balanced by an assertive hop bite–think Irish red ale with a bite. Depending on how you plan your day, this might be one to save for when the chaos has subsided. Otherwise, too many of these might spell an early g’night.
When you think ‘Irish lager’, you likely conjure images of light bottles of Harp. However, we’re choosing to recommend something a little more palatable than the mass-produced Irish adjunct. Here, Oregon’s Rogue Ales offer up a crackery dry lager with a slightly sweet finish, perfect for your midday St. Pat’s lunch break.
St. Louis, MO
Style: Foreign Extra Stout
They call it Extra Stout for a reason. At 8%, Schlafly’s Irish Extra Stout is approaching imperial status, but still maintains that smooth finish you would expect from the traditional style. The higher ABV brings with it more pronounced flavors of chocolate, coffee, and dried fruits. Let this one warm up, it’s meant to be sipped…not chugged after a shot of Irish cream or whiskey.
Style: Irish Red Ale
When you traditionalists are looking for a break from your seventh Guinness of the day, reach for a Smithwick’s (and that’s ‘Smyth-icks’, not ‘Smith-wicks’). This readily available red ale drinks more like a brown, with it’s rich, dark copperish hue and caramely sweetness. It’s dry and biscuity, thanks to it’s toasty malts, but drinks surprisingly denser than it’s 3.8% ABV (the lowest on this list, by the way). Smithwick’s is a welcome alternative to a day full of stouts, and offers to drink small plastic cups of green beer (resist!).
Style: Irish Cream Ale
Originally brewed in Ireland’s County Wexford in 1810, this ale is now produced across the Irish Sea in England, by tavern kingpins, Greene King–blasphemy! Still, it’s a great alternative to the many stouts and traditional red ales on this list. Created using Irish malts and hops, it pours a beautiful cascading amber hue and finishes with a creamy, ivory white head. It’s mellow and airy at 4.6%, and could act as your Irish session ale for the day.