According to census data, more than 33 million Americans claim that they come from Irish ancestry. For perspective, there are only 4.6 million people in all of Ireland. Perhaps our ancestry is one of the reasons so many of us have fallen in love with the cascading effect of those small, less soluble nitrogen bubbles and the fantastic creamy head on a tall pint of dark Guinness.
Yes, we Americans love the St Patrick’s Day holiday, and while nothing can precisely replicate the look, feel, and taste of hoisting a Guinness on March 17, we’d like to provide a few of our favorite craft-beer alternatives (both abroad and in the United States). Cheers to the Irish in America! Cheers to craft beer!
But first, there’s Guinness Draught.
Guinness Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland)
From the brewer: “Rich and creamy. Distinctively black. Velvety in its finish. This iconic beer is defined by harmony. Sip after sip, sweet counters bitter as the malt arrives on cue to complement a base of roasted barley. Just as the unmistakable white head sits flush atop the dark beer, so do the flavors counter and combine perfectly. This is our greatest innovation. Truly unique. Perfectly balanced.”
O’Hara’s Irish Stout
Carlow Brewing Company (County Carlow, Ireland)
From the brewer: “The flagship of the O’Hara’s brand, this uniquely Irish stout brings one back to how Irish stouts used to taste. First brewed in 1999, it has since been awarded prestigious honours for its quality and authenticity. O’Hara’s Irish Stout has a robust roast flavour complemented by a full-bodied and smooth mouth feel. The generous addition of Fuggle hops lends a tart bitterness to the dry espresso-like finish. This sessionable stout beer is filled with rich complex coffee aromas mingled with light liquorice notes. The combination of traditional stout hops with an extra pinch of roast barley allows us to stay true to Irish tradition, re-creating a taste so often yearned for by stout drinkers.”
Left Hand Brewing Company (Longmont, Colorado)
From the brewer: “Dark and delicious, America’s great milk stout will change your perception about what a stout can be. Pouring hard out of the bottle, Milk Stout Nitro cascades beautifully, building a tight, thick head like hard whipped cream. The aroma is of brown sugar and vanilla cream, with hints of roasted coffee. The pillowy head coats your upper lip and its creaminess entices your palate. Initial roasty, mocha flavors rise up, with slight hops and roast bitterness in the finish. The rest is pure bliss of milk chocolate fullness.”
Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant (Novato, California)
From the brewer: “Dry, roasty, and incredibly rich in flavor, Dragoons Dry Irish Stout is made with a unique blend of imported hops and malted barley from the United Kingdom. This award winning stout is brewed in the Irish tradition to commemorate General Stephen Moylan, Irish-born commander of the 4th Continental Dragoons during the American Revolutionary War.”
O’Hara’s Barrel Aged Leann Folláin
Carlow Brewing Company (County Carlow, Ireland)
From the brewer: “O’Hara’s Leann Folláin is the winner of the Concours M Biere Pierre Celis Platinum Medal at the Mondial de la Biére, September 2014, in France and Gold Medal winner at the Irish Whiskey Awards, October 2014. Each swing top bottle is individually numbered and is one of only 5,500 bottles produced. Luxurious, full-bodied Leann Folláin stout was matured for 90 days in Irish whiskey barrels and conditioned in the bottle to provide a gentle carbonation. During this time, the dark chocolate flavours and well balanced bitterness of the stout combine with the essence of whiskey residing in the oak barrels. The finish is a sophisticated stout, rich and dark with the mild warmth of smooth Irish whiskey.”
Fremont Brewing Company (Seattle, Washington)
From the brewer: “The Rusty Nail begins life as The First Nail, an oatmeal stout of epic proportions with brewer’s licorice, smoked barley, and pale malt and is then aged on cinnamon bark. She becomes the Rusty Nail after spending 15 months in 12-year-old bourbon barrels. The Rusty Nail pounds your palate, challenges your perception of all that you’ve known of beer, and leaves you wanting … another sip.”
Perennial Artisan Ales (St. Louis, Missouri)
From the brewer: “An imperial stout brewed with ancho chile peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. Pouring deep brown with a thick head, this beer has a complex body with a delicious lingering roastiness. Abraxas is brewed with unique ingredients intended to challenge and excite the palate. It may be enjoyed right away or allowed to age in the bottle. Vertical tastings are encouraged.*
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, California)
From the brewer: “Parabola is a beer of darkness and immensity, a barrel-aged beast that is routinely ranked as one of the top beers in the world. This Russian imperial oatmeal stout is aged for a full year in a blend of bourbon barrels from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, and Buﬀalo Trace, developing ﬂavors of rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbony vanilla. Parabola bares its teeth with its impenetrable black hue and soaring alcohol, yet its bite remains reﬁned with a silky, balanced ﬁnish.
Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, New York)
From the brewer: “As scientists, our brewers use their materials to exacting standards. As artists, they couldn’t resist the temptation to combine two of our highly acclaimed Blackwater Series imperial stouts: Jahva and Choklat. Alone each is perfect, but together as Mokah they are an inimitable expression of two of the world’s most sought after flavors. Enjoy Mokah stout with—or as—your favorite dessert!
Aspen Brewing Co. (Aspen, Colorado)
From the brewer: “Paying tribute to the brave men who pioneered the ski industry following their service in World War II, our 10th Mountain Imperial Stout is an imperial version of the traditional English oatmeal stout. A decadent beer worthy of sipping by the fire or sharing with friends.”
Ska Brewing (Durango, Colorado)
From the brewer: “It’s as though a cow stared into the face of God and as God told it the meaning of life, we grabbed its udders and squeezed out a bucket. This traditional English cream stout is brewed with actual milk sugar to create a creamy and sweet brew. Jet-black in color, the latte frothy head will make you mooo for more.”
Irish Red Ales
Acres O’ Green Irish Red
Lone Tree Brewing Company (Lone Tree, Colorado)
From the brewer: “Leprechauns and humans alike love to dance a jig while celebrating with our Irish Red. The complexity of malts converges into a smooth mouthfeel, lightly punctuated with a dash of subtle hoppiness. Sláinte!”
Harpoon Celtic Ale
Harpoon Brewery (Boston, Massachusetts)
From the brewer: “Having brewed in South Boston since 1987, it was probably only a matter of time before we decided to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day (Evacuation Day—coincidentally a holiday—in Boston). It’s a beer that we thought would pair well with the late winter as well: malty enough to stand up to the cold but balanced enough to hint at Spring. Harpoon Celtic Ale features a deep ruby color, medium body, and a balanced malt bill created by Irish ale malt and a touch of roasted barley. Rich in tradition and sessionable in character, Harpoon Celtic is the ideal Spring seasonal.”
Conway’s Irish Ale
Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, Ohio)
From the brewer: “We pay homage to Patrick Conway, grandfather of co-owners Patrick and Daniel, and a Cleveland policeman who directed traffic near the brewery for nearly 25 years. And to all of the hometown heroes who make our city great, we toast with this sweet, roasty brew that pairs best with a well-deserved hot meal after a hard day’s work.”
Devils Backbone Brewing Company ( Lexington, Virginia)
From the brewer: “A little luck of the Irish in a can! An Irish-style red ale with a medium body and a beautiful copper color. You’ll enjoy mild chocolate notes balanced by hints of toasted caramel (derived from seven different malts) in the finish.”
Many of us can remember the first time a Half & Half (Guinness + Harp) was set down before us. Two beers—dark on the top, light on the bottom. This concept is commonly referred to as a “Black & Tan” when the light layer is made with Bass Ale.
Blending beers in the glass is nothing new to our ancestors across the pond, but it’s only recently started to gain popularity here in the States. Below are two of our local favorites—make one of your own!
Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro (top) with Avery Brewing Company IPA (bottom). A lovely Half & Half made with two of the best beers from Boulder, Colorado.
Odell Brewing Company’s 90 Shilling Ale and 5 Barrel Pale Ale. This blend doesn’t divide into layers like others, but both of these beers have won medals at the Great American Beer Festival, and the combination is wonderful.