St. Patty’s Day Non-Pretentious Yet Super-Expert Beer Guide

As Americans, we take our drinking-related holidays quite seriously. So why be lax about what we imbibe on St. Patrick’s Day, the grandaddy of all loosely-founded wastefests?

As Americans, we tend to take our drinking-related holidays quite seriously. Even more so, as Richmonders, we tend to take pretty much everything and make it about drinking–from riding bikes to tubing to kickball. So why be lax about what we imbibe on St. Patrick’s Day, the grandaddy of all loosely-founded wastefests? We should be free to drink what we like, comfortable in the knowledge that there are magically enough Irish people one day a year to start a formidable land-war in China.

Typically, on St. Patrick’s Day people drink one of two things: Harp or Guinness. And there are two good reasons for this: One, they’re Irish (duh), and Two, they’re light. This is what the term “session beer” means. If you were drinking a high alcohol beer for 7 to 10 hours on St. Patrick’s Day, you wouldn’t be drunk–you’d be comatose, dead, or floating somewhere in the St. Lawrence seaway. The only problem with drinking “Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day is.. it can get kind of boring. In order to fight this, we must branch out! To this effect, here is a short list of other brews you might find on tap at bars this March along with a few reasons to check them out!

Smithwick’ Irish Red Ale (4.5% ABV)

This is a traditional Irish Ale that is quite light in alcohol and very smooth. Solid notes of caramel and vanilla, with an appropriate English-style hopping. It pours a lovely caramel/amber color, settling into a creamy little head. If you can handle the Richmond springtime PBR porchfests, you could drink a hundred of these guys. To prevent strange looks, make sure to call it “Smitticks”, not “Smith-wicks!”

Fuller’s Pride (4.7% ABV)

Fullers London Pride is an absolutely delicious English Pale Ale. English Pale Ales tend to differ from their American counterparts in that their hops are less bitter and up front, instead adding mild bitterness and a full, floral smell. The perfect pint during a soccer match at Penny Lane Pub, this is one of the most respected and well-balanced beers in the world. Some floral and piney hops, with a cooling sweetness and a lot of flavor.

Fuller’s Porter (5.4% ABV)

Fuller’s London Porter is in my opinion one of the best beers in the world. Long touted and loved by beer connoisseur Michael Jackson (the one who knows beer, not Culkin) as the perfect beer, this is your go-to beer if you want something dark and roasty that puts Guinness to shame. Warm caramel, chocolate, and coffee notes with just a hint of hoppy bitterness. This is a desert island beer for sure.

Rogue Kells Irish Lager (5.0% ABV)

Rogue Brewery in Oregon has been brewing this beer for an Irish pub in their neck of the woods for awhile now, and it is the best example I’ve found of an Irish Lager (like Harp) made in America. Same sweetness and smoothness you’ve come to expect from Harp, but with a quicker, crisper finish. The gravity of this beer is right on, so you can float a light stout (like Guinness) on top of it for a black and tan.

O’Hara’s Irish Red (4.3% ABV)

This is an insanely light beer for the flavor it possesses. O’Hara’s, equally famous for their Dry Irish Stout, has been producing this beer forever, and it certainly will be an eye-opener to Killian’s fans. A bit darker than typical red ales, with a coppery but smooth taste that finishes a lot like a lighter beer–a hoppy pilsner for instance.

Murphy’s Irish Stout (4.0% ABV)

Another beer for the Guinness lover who wishes to branch out. Murphy’s is as thick as they come, with low carbonation and a deliciously warm, roasted espresso flavor. As far as Irish stouts go, I would take this over any others. If you worry about the heaviness filling you up, consider this: it’s low carbonation is going to allow it to settle in your belly much easier, with more room to drink! Coming soon is their Imperial version, the Dropick Murphy’s Irish Stout. ZING.

Moylan’s Paddy’s Irish Red (6.5% ABV)

This to me is the pinnacle of the American Irish Red. Moylan’s is a California brewery who is making a fair amount of waves in the beer scene based on their cheap prices (rare these days) and next-level recipes. This brew is characteristic of American versions of European beers: we like to take them and make them bigger and badder. In this case, they amped up the malt and alcohol. With more overt sweetness than most Irish Reds, bringing to mind toffee (Skor bars?) and berries, this is the epitome of what a properly roasted grain can add to a beer. A decent amount of residual sugars (the sugars left over in the brew after fermentation) you can make a full flavored beer with a bit of kick that isn’t going to break the bank. It might take some searching (I’d recommend an ale house or Once Upon A Vine), but this beer is delicious with a great price!

  • error

    Report an error

Christopher Elford

Christopher Elford is a Canadian-born waiter, writer, and comedian who enjoys playing a game called “Drink When You’re Unhappy.” He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his two cats and would love to do stand-up at your next garden or office party.

There are 6 reader comments. Read them.