Don’t do the green beer. Just don’t. For one day, actually drink something Irish. Bud Light will still be there tomorrow. Look…you got all decked out in green, with shamrocks and hats – the whole nine yards. If you’re going to LOOK the part, DRINK the part. But you might not know where to begin. Well, my pale Irish ass is here to help. We’ll look at whiskey first and then some beer options.
There are PLENTY of good actual Irish choices for beer and liquor. Irish whiskey is popular, and for good reason. It’s usually not terribly expensive but it has good flavor. It doesn’t have the burn that some whiskey’s do. Let’s look at three popular choices.
Jameson – The most popular. It’s what I discovered when I was fortunate enough to go to Ireland after I got tired of Guiness. I’ve been in love with it ever since. It’s smooth, warming, and has good flavor without punching you in the face. It’s enjoyed by adults and bro’s.
Powers – This punches you in the face. It threatens to take you to suplex city with if’s full flavor and burn. It has the whiskey burn. It’s usually cheaper than Jameson but sometimes harder to find. If you like the burn (not to be confused with the Bern and the fine Senator from Vermont) then this is a good choice.
Tullamore Dew – The Dew is very similar to Jameson. It might be juuuuust a little bit smoother than Jameson, but has very similar qualities. It tastes good, doesn’t have the burn, and doesn’t have a long term after taste. It might be a little bit more than Jameson, but if you want something different without the dropkick to your mouth, then go with Tullamore Dew.
There are 12 year, 18 year, and other variants of Jameson. They tend to be pretty expensive at a bar, sometimes $10-$20 for a shot. They usually have a much more oaky flavor to them. If you like that kind of thing, go for it.
There are also some good choices in beer. A lot of local breweries will make Irish beers in two flavors, stout and reds. The reds can have a wide variety in tastes, but usually don’t disappoint. Here are some choices you could try.
Guinness – One of the oldest and most successful beers in the world. DRINK IT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. If the bartender serves it to you cold then I assume he calls everyone “bro.” Guinness also takes a while to settle so you will have to be patient. It’s a very dark beer, and the staple if you want a stout. It has less calories than the light domestics you probably drink too.
Guinness Black Lager – Damn fine beer if you can find it. It’s halfway between a stout and a lager. It’s a dark lager so it’s not going to go down as easy as your normal lagers. It’s got a good unique flavor that’s good for a change of pace beer, but I wouldn’t drink it constantly. Usually found in bottles and rarely on tap.
Smithwicks – This beer is actually older than Guinness (though now owned by Guinness) by almost 50 years. It’s a red ale. It tends to be a little bit heavier than microbrewery Irish Red’s, but certainly not has heavy as Guinness. It’s one of my personal favorites and has been for while. A nice balance of smooth, flavor, and heaviness. Side note: it is not SMITH-wicks. Irish bartenders will glare at you like a pissed off parent to an unruly child. Smi-icks is the way to go. Don’t piss off the bartender any more than they already are. St. Paddy’s day is amateur hour. Abide.
Harp – An Irish Lager. If you don’t like the dark beers or the reds, this is an excellent choice. It has a nice, smooth, but not overpowering taste. Most Irish bars will have this on tap, and it’s definitely better from a tap than it is a bottle. It’s not a terrible popular beer so you could say it’s underrated.
Bass – It’s actually English. So drink it next week. You’re drinking Irish today/tonight.
Killians Irish Red – Very easy to drink. It’s smooth, with good flavor. It’s a lighter red than most microbrews, and certainly lighter than Smithwicks. It’s easy to find in bottles, and taps are not uncommon. It’s great for drinking and goes down easy. It’s also really good for cooking in stews.
There are also some very rare Irish beers if you can find them. Smithwick’s makes an excellent pale ale but it’s very hard to find, though thankfully, usually on tap when you do find it. It’s far and away my favorite Irish beer. Smithwick’s also makes a Generous Ale which is worth a try if you can find it. Guinness Nitro IPA is garbage.
There are a ton of Irish Red’s made by local breweries and regional breweries. The Boulevard Irish is pretty decent. It doesn’t have near the flavor of a Killians or a Smithwicks. I know the Irish beers made here in Des Moines are pretty good, but can vary in taste. Irish cream ales are also pretty common. It’s similar to a stout but not as dense or dry.
Avoid the green beer and avoid the green piss that comes with it. It’s not natural. Avoid your toilet looking like a Jackson Pollock painting covered in moss and algae. Drink Irish. That’s what the holiday is for. Just step outside your comfort zone for one day, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Bonus shot – For food, if you can find someone selling Potato and Leek Soup, get a bowl of it. If you can find someone selling “Brown Bread”, get some. Both are great for soaking up all the alcohol, but also delicious as well. Irish stews and Shepherd’s Pies are also great.