Irish beers for St. Patrick’s Day

While some people are comfortable just adding green dye to their lager on St. Patrick’s Day, others like to grab a Guinness. If you’re looking for something a little Irish this March, here are a few beers I’d recommend.

Guinness Draught (4.5% ABV)

Guinness is the most common Irish beer. Although it is dark and flavorful, it actually has less alcohol than most American mass-market beers and a mere 125 calories. Ask your bartender for a perfect pint, which should take 119.53 seconds to pour, according to Guinness. What you will get is a black-bodied beer with a fluffy head on top. It smells of roasted malt and tastes of muted coffee, chocolate and a slight, pleasant bitterness. That creamy milkshake-like mouthfeel is from the nitrogen that’s used, instead of carbon dioxide, for carbonation. Few bubbles equal a silky smooth experience.

Harp Lager (5.0% ABV)

Not everyone wants a deep, dark Irish beer experience. That doesn’t mean you have to venture into the realm of ciders. Harp Lager pours as a pale gold with a fluffy white head. It smells and tastes like most other European lagers ~ a clean aftertaste without a trace of hop bitterness or malt sweetness. There is a slight metallic tang that is not oppressive. This beer surprised me. It would make an excellent session beer.

Beamish Stout (4.1% ABV)

Much like the Harp Lager, this beer surprised me. Compared to a Guinness, it has a slightly smaller head and is a tad lighter in color. There is more of an aroma of coffee, with some unsweetened chocolate thrown in. It is also less bitter/sour than Guinness. This is another beer with a creamy, smooth mouthfeel from the nitrogen used to carbonate it. The lack of sourness really lets the complex malt profile shine through. Try one for yourself; you will not be disappointed.

Murphy’s Irish Stout (4.0% ABV)

Yet another Irish Stout ~ and another flavor profile. This one has less coffee aroma but more roasted malt and warm cereal. There is some coffee flavor, and a slight hop bitterness helps round out the flavors. Have you ever thought other Irish stouts were too heavy or thick? Murphy’s has a thinner mouthfeel than the other stouts reviewed here, yet retains similar flavors. It is a tad sweeter and finishes drier, as well.

Smithwick’s Irish Ale (4.5% ABV)

A traditional Irish red, this is a well-carbonated, deep amber red ale with a frothy head that leaves sticky lacing in its wake. There are some fruity yeast esters, toasted bread and a light hop presence in both the aroma and taste. There is a metallic background toward the end with more yeast esters. Mouthfeel is not heavy and not light. If you are looking for something different and still want something Irish, give Smithwick’s a try.

Quinn’s Amber Ale (4.6% ABV)

This is brewed locally by Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster. Quinn’s has a light red/orange body with a small lingering head. It smells of malt, bread and slightly of toffee. It tastes of bread dough, butter, caramel and biscuit. It goes down surprisingly well, with only a slight, slick butter aftertaste, probably from the yeast used, but that’s not a bad thing. There is also a hint of hop, just enough to make you keep drinking it ~ just to be sure.