With St. Patrick's Day nigh upon us, many of us will take to the streets of Dogtown to celebrate our Irish heritage (real or make-believe). Inevitably, this will involve many pints of brews such as Smithwick's, Guinness and Harp.
While those are certainly good beers, there are some amazing local beers that are brewed in very similar styles. Here are our recommendations.
Irish Red Ale Early Irish brewers produced ale without using hops, which weren't native to the island. But beginning in the 18th century, brewers began importing hops from Britain, giving rise to Irish red ales like Smithwick's. These lightly-hopped ales use medium roasted malts that give them a brownish-red hue. Try Boulevard's Irish Ale for an excellent example of the style. It has a pleasant, toasty flavor with just a hint of earthy hops bitterness at the end.
Irish Stout In the latter half of the 18th Century, English porters became popular on the island. At the time, "stout" generally denoted a stronger beer, so a "stout porter" was just a stronger porter. In the 1840s, Guinness, which had been selling a porter since 1778, began marketing their beers as either single stout (their original porter) or extra stout (a stronger version). Irish stouts began to stand apart from their British counterparts by using roasted, unmalted barley which gave them a drier, roasty flavor. Schalfly's Irish-Style Extra Stout, brewed with a blend of roasted and malted barley, carries on this tradition well. It tastes of dark chocolate and molasses, and with a very pronounced booziness from its 8 percent ABV.
Irish Lager Lagers are relative newcomers in the Irish brewing history. The first successful lager brand in Ireland was Harp Lager, created by Guinness in 1960 after noticing a trend among Irish drinkers toward European lagers. You won't find any local brews calling themselves "Irish lagers," because it's not really a style on it's own. However, you can find many local examples of great European lagers such as Urban Chestnut's Stammtisch, a German Pilsner with a light, crisp taste accented by the grassy German hops.