Happy St. Patrick’s Day y’all!! This holiday is a cultural and religious celebration of the death day of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. It commemorates the saint as well as the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Celebrations involved parades, feasts, and wearing green or shamrocks. Historically, the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, encouraging alcohol consumption, which is why it has become known as a “drinking” holiday! Pretty cool right?! However, during the years of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, celebrations died down. In 1927, even though it was still available in Northern Ireland, the newly formed Irish Free State banned alcohol from being sold on St. Patrick’s Day. The ban wasn’t repealed until 1961. Cue chaos in the pubs.
Beer and brewing in Ireland has a long history, going back a few centuries. Hops are not native to Ireland so their first ales were made without them. In the early 1700’s, brewers began importing hops from England and in the same century, the Irish Parliament used taxation to encourage brewing over distilleries, claiming that beer was less harmful for you than whiskey. Definitely on your throat, maybe on your health, but I don’t think it makes a lick of difference when the drinks start pouring. By the early 19th century, there were over 200 breweries in the country. Currently, popular styles brewed and consumed are lagers (accounting for 60% sold), stouts (34%), Irish red ales and a miniscule amount of craft beers and ales make up the last 6% of beer sold. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that microbreweries and brewpubs started populating the beer scene and in 2014 there were approximately 50. Even though there has been a surge in growth recently, craft beer sales only make up 1.5% of beer sold in all of Ireland.
In the spirit of all things green, gold, and beer, I’ve decided to put together a list of Irish beers to give you more options than solely the ubiquitous, non-Irish “green beer” in your cup for your celebrations this weekend.
Obviously people know Guinness, their most popular beer is an Irish Dry Stout. Guinness Draught is a lighter dark beer (yes that makes sense) at 4.2% ABV and is velvety smooth thanks to the use of a nitrogen carbon-dioxide blend. If you’re not into dark beers that’s ok, (this is a judge free zone after all) they brew a Blonde American Lager which crosses Irish tradition with American spirit. At 5% ABV, this is a light and refreshing alternative to some other domestic American lagers that you might find stocked at the bars.
Murphy’s Irish Red Ale is a perfect option for something crisp, slightly fruity and with a touch of caramel malt. At 5% ABV this beer could be the perfect addition to your traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner!
Harp Lager (brewed by Guinness) at 4.5% ABV is probably the best for those that like a light, easy to drink and easy on the stomach beer. It’s got a summery feel that will remind you of sunshine and clover fields (not the movie, definitely not at all sunshiny) with a nice balance that starts off bitter and ends smooth.
A few domestic Irish brews to note are Brooklyn’s Dry Irish Stout, Great Lakes’ Conway’s Irish Ale (with notes of caramel malt and fruity hops, named after the co-owners’ grandfather Pa Conway) and Three Floyds’ Brian Boru Old Irish Red Ale. This beer was named after Ireland’s first and only king of the whole Gaelic race. It has notes of caramel malts with orange hop flavor and a fuller body with low carbonation.
So there you have it, a little bit of Irish brewing history and a list of a few brews to try this weekend! Some of these are only here through March so make sure you get yours before they’re gone until next year. Have a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!