What’s Brewing? 5 Irish beers to sample
St. Patrick’s Day began on March 17, 461, marking the anniversary of the passing of the patron saint of Ireland. The holiday was to commemorate St. Patrick’s great life and his many contributions to the world including the monasteries, churches and schools he had established.
It was a way not to forget the legendary tale of how St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and how he used the shape of the shamrock to explain the Trinity. It was a day of feasting. Today it has become a day of drinking.
Irish immigrants transformed the unofficial holiday into a secular holiday. A day of revelry and celebration of all things Irish, including beer. Christians are allowed to put aside their Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol consumption for this one day, which is why excessive drinking has become so permanently linked to St. Patrick’s Day.
Pittsburgh is rated one of the best cities to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. And as Pennsylvania produces more beer than any other in our country, you can bet the taps at craft breweries will be flowing this Sunday.
Whether you choose to drink local Irish-American beer or something imported from the Emerald Isle itself, there are plenty to choose. Here’s a primer to help with your selection:
For those of you who enjoy lighter beers, consider an Irish cream ale. These are notoriously easy to drink and have low hop bitterness. Ireland’s original cream ale is Kilkenny, which you can find at your local distributor after you try a cream ale at one at your local breweries first. Hop Farm on Butler Street in Lawrenceville has a coffee cream ale you’ll enjoy.
Harp lager is another Irish option from Ireland. As one would expect from a lager, it has a clean and refreshing taste with only a slightly malty finish.
Irish Red Ales
Irish red ales are known for their distinct red color, slightly sweet taste and light hop bitterness. Try a Red Paddy Irish Ale from Lavery Brewing Co. You can find this beer in a cask and many more Irish favorites on tap at Piper’s Pub on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
Porters are indeed Irish and happen to be the father of all stouts. They tend to be a bit sweeter than stouts and have a dark brown opaque color. They can be creamy, nutty and have hop bitterness with notes of chocolate too. Prohibition Pauly from Fat Head’s is a good one if you can find it.
Irish dry stouts are without a doubt the most iconic Irish beer. They’re almost black in color and are known for their creamy mouthfeel and dry-roasted character. Many have a distinct creamy mouthfeel with notes of chocolate and coffee in addition to a bitter finish from the hops. Try Without A Stout, from Roundabout Brewery in Lawrenceville. They say it’s an uncomplicated stout with lovely notes of chocolate due to loads of dark malt. I haven’t had a beer I didn’t like there yet!
As the saying goes, everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s raise a glass on March 17 and begin transforming our winter’s dreams into summer’s magic. Cheers!
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of “Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.”