Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
If Oktoberfest is the Fall holiday for beer, then St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everybody is Irish, is certainly the Late Winter/Spring Holiday day for beer. Not just a holiday for a specific style of beer, but a brand, some would say. Guinness, of course. Guinness is far from the only beer option (or even Irish Stout) to enjoy on and around St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll touch on a few of those. But I’ll start with Guinness itself.
Guinness, the most popular and best selling stout in the world is still quite well regarded by many craft beer folks despite being such a global brand. When it comes to stouts, especially Irish Stouts, few compare to Guinness especially when the line from the keg to the tap is short. A nice touch is when the bartender adds a four-leaf clover to the head.
Guinness has been expanding their portfolio here in the U.S. over the past handful of years, including a Blonde Ale (the less said the better), an “Irish Wheat” that was surprisingly tasty, and several stouts. They offer up a Milk Stout as well as a Belgian-inspired Antwerpen Stout. The Guinness I’m really looking forward to trying, though, is the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, brewed in late 2017 in honor of the 200th anniversary since Guinness was first shipped to America.
The “other” Irish Stout, Murphy’s is also an excellent example of the style. It has been many, many years since I enjoyed a Murphy’s. I may have to change that soon.
Many American brewers try to evoke the style as well. This may not come as a shock to folks who read this blog regularly, but my favorite is probably Victory Brewing’s offering: Donnybrook Stout. I believe this is a draft only beer as I’ve never seen it in bottles or cans, but I recall the beer hitting the same notes as Guinness does, and to a fairly successful degree. Breckenridge Brewery has a “Nitro Dry Irish Stout” that is very much playing into the whole Guinness beer profile, too. Of course, Breckenridge is one of a growing number of American Craft Breweries purchased by Anheuser-Busch and part of its “High End” brand initiative.
It isn’t all about the Stouts on St. Patrick’s Day, though. Smithwick’s is the brand name for the Red Ale the fine folks at Guinness brew and distribute. For years this was a go-to beer for me. I even prefer a “Black and Red” or “BlackSmith” to the traditional “Black and Tan.” Smithwick’s may be the quintessential Irish Red Ale and again, many American brewers try to evoke the style.
For my beer drinking dollar, the best of the American interpretations of an Irish Red Ale is – hands down, no discussion – Great Lakes Brewing’s Conway’s Irish Ale. I seem to alternate going with this or something from Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. Great Lakes (rightfully so) makes a big deal out of this one on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve only touched upon some a few of the seasonal/holiday appropriate brews to enjoy (responsibly!) during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, I know.* Of course, some Jameson would also be perfectly appropriate or one of the caskmates brews they’ve brewed in collaboration with a few American Craft brewers, like the Craic they partnered with River Horse here in New Jersey to brew last year. This beer is really tough to find and I haven’t had much luck yet.
Some other NJ breweries are getting in on the fun, too.*
- Bolero Snort put Magicbully Delicious into distribution this week. This beer is part of a series of beers they’ve been making with cereal, this one is a Golden Milk Stout brewed with Lucky Charms
- Double Nickel (whose Pilsner I loved last year) is brewing and releasing “The Irish Chinstrap” – Irish Breakfast Stout made with Barrel Aged Coffee Beans – on St. Patrick’s Day at their brewery in Pennsauken, NJ.
- Flounder Brewing (Hillsborough, NJ) brewed up Black Emerald, a small batch Dry Irish Stout available for Growler Fills and on nitro at the brewery
- Beach Haus brews Parade Day Irish Coffee Stout every year, I think. Belmar, home of Beach Haus, had their 45th Annual St. Patrick’s Day parade last year, which is what helped to inspire the beer’s name.
- Spellbound Brewing is making/releasing an Irish Coffee Porter and a Corned Beef Pale Ale (I guess if Sam from Dogfish and Augie Carton can make it…) on St. Patrick’s Day at their brewery in Mount Holly, NJ.
- Demented Brewing released Pride, an Irish Dry Stout last weekend (March 11), which will probably be available for a week or three at their taproom in Middlesex, NJ.
*Gotta save some for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day post, right?
For some Irish brews to enjoy for St. Patrick’s Day, take a look at this great article by Jason Notte.
There you have it. A quick rundown of some of the more widely available and widely known seasonally appropriate brews for St. Patrick’s Day as well as a handful of beers from some NJ Breweries. I know there are many more, so drop a note in the comments to let me know of a good one I may have overlooked.