While most people are done celebrating, I figured since today is actually St. Patrick’s day I should post something. Off the bat, I recognize that many are wary of the topic as they feel St. Patrick’s day in its current form celebrates over-indulgence and presents a distorted picture of Irish culture. While I’m not particularly partial to chugging green-dyed beer, I feel there is a sensible way to explore Irish culture on a day which has historical importance. To that end, I’ve come up with a list of ‘authentic’ Irish beers and some Canadian alternatives to try either this time or next. I’ve focused on more sessionable, approachable beers that anyone could conceivably try without being too shocked.
While unfortunately, these beers don’t come to Canada, also take a minute to look at this list of Irish craft pubs: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/oct/29/craft-beer-ireland-10-pubs-microbreweries
Hopefully, we’ll see the Irish beer scene expand to more than just familiar Diageo products.
Guinness Draft: 4.2% ABV. This is the ‘classic’ Irish beer. A sessionable dry stout with notes of coffee and dark fruit. Get it on draft if you can or (nitro-charged) cans. Not to be confused with Extra-Stout (which is produced by Labatt / InBev) or the new Black Lager.
Kilkenny Traditional Cream Ale: 4.1% ABV. A beer which has become hugely popular in Canada’s Irish-themed pubs. Often suggested as a lighter alternative to Guinness. If you drink mostly macro-lagers it might be a nice change, but of limited complexity for more advanced craft drinkers.
Smithwick’s Ale: 5% ABV. A nitro-charged red ale. Slightly basic, but perhaps more engaging than Kilkenny for the seasoned beer drinker.
Mill St. Cobblestone Stout: 4.4% ABV. A very faithful ‘tribute’ to a certain famous Irish dry stout. Also nitro-charged. I found slightly more coffee in the nose in palate.
Black Creek Irish Potato Stout: 5% ABV. A new addition to the LCBO just in time for St. Patrick’s day. I found the beer slightly unbalanced towards the bitter end, but an interesting, lower-cost beer to experiment with. Brewed in honour of the devastating Irish Potato famine.
With all this said, don’t feel pressured into drinking beers you don’t like. Unfortunately, we do not get a very broad cross-section of the Irish brewing scene in Canada and some of you may wish to stick with more complex products that suit your taste.