Drinks

5 beers to celebrate St. Patrick's Day the Irish-American way

March 16, 2013 at 9:27 AM ET

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It’s frustrating being a beer geek on St. Patrick’s Day. Sure, I love wearing green, eating corn beef and cabbage, and seeing Chicago dye their river a bright shade of jade, but I find the traditional holiday beers simply don’t lift my kilt anymore.

I think Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is the best of the lot, but after treating my palate to the wonders of American craft beer for the other 364 days of the year, even that seems a bit stodgy.

Instead of settling, try one of these American beers that are crafted in the Irish tradition. They’ll have you ready to break out the soda bread, kiss the Blarney Stone and launch into a river dance, because everybody (including each beer below) is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

3 Floyds Brian Boru Irish Brand Red Ale (5.5 percent ABV)

Imagine the Celtic-American love child of Irish actor Liam Neeson and California girl Cameron Diaz, and you’ll have a close approximation to what 3 Floyds Brian Baru is all about; a mash up of the sweet toffee maltiness one associates with an Irish red ale, and a hint of the citrusy hop profile you’ll find in a California IPA.

Brian Boru, named for an Irish king born in 941, pours a magnificent red amber with a foamy cream top. The foundation of its taste is the bready caramel sweetness one associates with an Irish red, but there’s a hoppy pop of pineapple and grapefruit in there as well.

It’s a truly Irish-American way to celebrate the holiday.

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro (6 percent ABV)

When a beer is put “on nitro” at your favorite bar, it means the standard CO2 tank used to pressurize the keg is replaced with nitrogen, which imbues a beer with an amazing smoothness, akin to drinking a glassful of silk.

A vigorous pour of Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro creates a slowly roiling squadron of tiny tan bubbles that conspire upwards to form a rich and lustrous head. A sip reveals a creamy dream of milky sweet chocolate, marshmallows and wisps of coffee and roasted malt.

It took the folks over at Left Hand Brewing over two years to figure out how to deliver the “on nitro” experience in a bottle, but it was well worth the wait.

Epic Brewing 825 State Stout (5.3 percent ABV)

Epic Brewing is always tweaking the recipe of 825 State Stout, with the current rendition being a smooth and sweet charmer, with gentle tastes of milk chocolate, coffee and a slight nuttiness to the finish.

The fact that the recipe for this beer is constantly changing means what awaits you on the bottle shop shelf is as unpredictable as a leprechaun that’s been dipping into the Jameson. Will it be smooth batch #31, or the more potent batch #27? Whichever it is, it’ll most likely be good company on St. Patrick’s Day (just like that drunken leprechaun).

Sam Adams Irish Red (5.8 percent ABV)

This Irish Red Ale looks amazing in the glass, with a coppery amber color reminiscent of Maureen O’Hara’s ginger locks in “The Quiet Man.”

Roasted and earthy, this gentle beer nicely balances the caramel sweetness of its malts and a mild, loamy bitterness that comes courtesy of its East Kent Goldings hops.

This is a great brew for folks who drink beer only on special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day, and are looking for something that’s more flavorful than a standard mainstream lager, but won’t assault their taste buds with in-your-face flavor or bog them down with booze.

Schlafly Irish-Style Extra Stout (8.0 percent ABV)

Consider Schlafly Irish-Style Extra Stout to be Guinness Extra’s slightly taller, more handsome American cousin.

This black beauty has a heavy mouthfeel and a big, complex flavor of roasted malts, slightly chalky notes of chocolate, hints of coffee and molasses and a dry finish that warms your bones. There are also undercurrents of dried dark fruit and a touch of booziness on board, both of which make it particularly satisfying to sip on March 17 or any other time you want to slow down with a rich and hearty beer.

Schlafly Irish-Style Extra Stout is my hands-down favorite on St. Patrick’s Day, as it takes everything I love about a dry Irish stout and turns it up to 11.

These are just a handful of the many excellent craft beer alternatives to the limited selection of St. Patrick’s Day imports some folks have been drinking for years.

If you’re looking to try something new, I say give up your Guinness, kick your Killian’s to the curb, and enjoy one of these American craft beers that are guaranteed to blow a little air into your bagpipes.

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter.

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