Forget the green beer on St. Patrick’s Day: It’s going to be the cheapest brew on tap. Who would color craft beer green? If you must do so, go for the palest style, Wheat Beer, a.k.a. Weissbier, Weizenbier and Witbier. It takes the color best.
Instead of the green stuff, consider two beer styles with authentic Irish roots: Dry Stout and Red Ale. American craft brewers from coast to coast make them. In fact, Irish Red Ale is more popular in the U.S. these days than in Ireland!
Dig in to the two styles below, and check out the other types of beers in our Beer Glossary.
IRISH-STYLE DRY STOUT
Stouts are a higher-alcohol version of porter (7% A.B.V.* or higher), a dark beer made from roasted malt or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast.
All Stouts are Porters, but they are the stronger Porters (the “stoutest” ones). You can review their history and brewing techniques at BeerConnoisseur.com.
There are different Stout styles, including American Sweet Stout; Baltic Porter; Milk Stout/Sweet Stout/English Sweet Stout, made with lactose, milk sugar; and Imperial Stout/Russian Imperial Stout, a style first brewed in the 18th century for export to the court of Catherine the Great.
*A.B.V. stands for Alcohol By Volume, the percent of alcohol in the beverage.
Guinness, the world’s most famous Stout. Annual sales are almost $2 billion. Photo courtesy Romano.
But the most common style of Stout is Dry Stout, the Irish-style Stout represented by Guinness Draught, the world’s best selling Stout. In the early 20th century, when Milk Stout/Sweet Stout became the dominant style in England, Ireland maintained a preference for the non-sweet or Dry Stout, also known as Standard Stout. With the world dominance of Guinness, it is now simply referred to as Stout.
Irish-style Dry Stouts are black in color with notes of coffee-like roasted barley and a roasted malt aroma. The hop bitterness is medium to medium high. The head is tan or tan-tinged.
Irish pub food: Beef Stew, Corned Beef & Cabbage, Fish & Chips, Guinness Beef Stew, Shepherd’s Pie.
Lamb kebabs (marinate them in Guinness) or pot roast with Guinness.
Burger or bacon burger, chicken or turkey sandwich, corned beef or Reuben sandwich, grilled cheese.
Dessert: anything mad with Guinness (Guinness Chocolate Mousse, Guinness Chocolate Cake or Cupcakes, Guinness Float, Guinness & Rum Milkshake, Spice Cake or Carrot Cake.
DRY STOUT FOOD PAIRINGS
STOUTS TO LOOK FOR
Dry stouts made by American craft brewers include:
Black Cat Stout from Portsmouth Brewing (Portsmouth, NH)
Black Sun Stout from 3 Floyds Brewing Co. (Munster, IN)
Blarney Sisters’ Dry Irish Stout from Third Street Aleworks (Santa Rosa, CA)
Blue Fin Stout from Shipyard Brewing Co. (Portland, ME)
Dark Starr Stout from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA)
Donnybrook Stout from Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, PA)
Moylan’s Dragoons Dry Irish Stout from Moylan’s Brewery (Novato, CA)
Old No. 38 from North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg, CA)
O.V.L. Stout from Russian River Brewing Co. (Santa Rosa, CA)
Taste them next to Guinness Draught and any other imported Irish stouts you come across, such as Murphy’s Irish Stout, O’Hara’s Celtic Stout, Porterhouse Brewing Co. Oyster Stout.
You may also find Guinness Black Lager, a lager style made with stout’s roasted barley, which provides the dark color and fuller body; and Harp Lager, a conventional style.
Imported from the Emerald Isle: Smithwicks Red Irish Ale, the first modern Irish Red Ale.
IRISH RED ALE
Traditional0 Irish Red Ales seems to have originated in 1710 at the Smithwick Brewery in Kilkenny. Today, Red Ales are even more popular in the U.S. than in Ireland.
The reddish or coppery hue is a result of brewing with a percentage of kilned malts and roasted barley. The style focuses on strong malt flavors with a light hoppiness and slight nuttiness/roastiness from the roasted grains.
Irish Red Ales are usually well balanced, with an average A.B.V. of 3.5% to 5%, although you can find brews with up to 8% alcohol. You may find hints of caramel and toffee from the malt notes, along with a crisp, dry finish.
For snacking, put out some smoked or toasted almonds, and mild or fruity cheeses (like fresh goat cheese or Asiago) with walnuts.
For a starter, serve a goat cheese salad or a green salad with toasted nuts (a nut oil vinaigrette is a home run).
For a main, consider grilled pork, poultry and Irish pub food: Bangers and Mash, mutton and Shepherd’s Pie.
Dessert: The caramel and toffee notes of the ale pair well with crème brûlée or plain cheesecake.
IRISH RED ALE FOOD PAIRINGS
AMERICAN CRAFT RED ALES TO LOOK FOR
Riverbank Red from Ghost River Brewing (Memphis, TN)
Erik the Red from Dragonmead Microbrewery (Warren, MI)
Irish Red from Boston Beer Co. (Boston, MA)
Irish Setter Red from Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Akron, OH)
Lucky SOB from Flying Dog Brewery (Frederick, MD)
Seamus’ Irish Red Ale from Sly Fox Brewing Co. (Phoenixville, PA)
Spring Irish Red Ale from Newport Storm Brewery (Newport, RI)
Red Trolley Ale from Karl Strauss Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA)
Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale from Thomas Creek Brewery (Greenville, SC)
For Irish imports, look for Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red and Smithwick’s Irish Ale. If you want to add another style, pick up some O’Hara’s Irish Wheat, a golden ale.
Thanks to Heather Galanty and the Brewers Association for this material.