While you’re gulping down your bowl of Lucky Charms and getting ready for the big St. Patrick’s Day festivities today, you are also probably thinking about what kind of Irish-tinged revelry you will be getting yourself into tonight. Whether you like it or not, at some point in your Leprechaunish adventures you are going to come across the often celebrated yet rarely questioned “green beer.” You know the stuff, a basic American Light Lager (like Miller Lite or Bud Light) mixed in with some green food coloring and served up in a glass or cup that screams St. Patty’s Day. Sure this green beer is a March 17 favorite and will be on tap at just about any bar or pub you choose this evening, but it is by no means the only beer you should pay attention to on this holiday. There’s nearly a dozen Ireland-inspired beers to choose from and just about every one of them will have a better taste than green beer. And all the beers on this list can be found in Morgantown, so you can stress over making your corned beef and cabbage.
Before we jump into our clover patch of Irish ales and stouts, let me preface this post by making it very clear that I am a beer lover and craft brew aficionado. Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of drinking nearly 800 beers and have accumulated nearly 500 beer bottles (anyone want some when I leave Morgantown in a couple of years?) so it should be safe for you to trust my judgement when it comes to beers of all styles. With that little disclaimer out-of-the-way, let’s take a look at some Irish-themed brews to knock down before the inevitable green flood sweeps you away.
Irish Ales – This style is a pretty simple one whose appeal is for the masses, not just a niche group of snobby beer enthusiasts. Usually Irish Ales are smooth, with some nice malt flavors that bring out hints of caramel and toffee. If you are worried about “bitter” beer, then Irish Ales are a good bet as hops are not used as a major ingredient throughout the brewing process. Irish Ales are also referred to as “session beers,” meaning you can drink many of them in a single sitting, and that’s great for St. Patrick’s Day!
Luckily Morgantown has a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when it comes to Irish Ales as Great Lakes’ Conway’s Irish Ale is available at several local locations including Kroger’s, Marris’s, and Slight Indulgence. This amber-colored beer is somewhat sweet with touches of silky caramel sweeping over your taste buds and the body isn’t too heavy so you can have three or four at one time. A six-pack can be a little pricey ($8-$10 range) but the reward is well worth it! By the way, the Conway Irish Ale is currently ranked in the Top 10 for the Irish Ale Style by Ratebeer.com so there is little excuse to miss out on this world-class beer, St. Patrick’s Day or not.
Other Irish Ales and Lagers in Morgantown:
Irish Stout aka. “Dry Stout” – Irish or Dry Stouts have a roasted malt flavor and dark-colored body with the usual bubbly white head that never seems to go away (no matter how much beer slips out of the glass during your drunken Irish jig). The flavors often fearfully attached to dark beers don’t smack you in the face with this style. Dry Stouts consist of some very muted coffee influences and are typically served with nitrogen instead of carbonation to make the beer smooth and creamy (that’s where that aforementioned never-ending head comes from). Like their Irish Ale brethren, Irish and Dry Stouts are low in alcohol and can be enjoyed one after another.
No discussion about Irish beers is valid without mentioning the legendary Guinness. Served in various styles from draft or “draught,” to Guinness Extra Stout to the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, if it’s made at the famous St. James’s Gate Brewery then it is probably worthy of your attention. That’s why I chose to highlight a new immigrant to the Morgantown beer scene, the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (GFES). This beer is actually a “foreign extra stout” style but with you scrambling to find something green to wear, who has time for technicalities? The GFES boasts a 7.5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) and is not what you would consider a session beer, this is a one and done brew. But that’s not a reason why you should shy away, after all there is green beer a plenty after you take down one of these banished snakes from Ireland.
The beer fuses coffee and chocolate flavors with a solid hop background to give the brew an extra kick. The pitch-black pour with a surprisingly light/medium body is signature Guinness, so you will feel at home if you’re a Draught-drinker. As a testament to this beer’s international supremacy, Ratebeer.com lists the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout at 17 on its Top 25 list for Foreign Stouts. So that means with a little bit of effort, you could try two excellent beers in one day…and that’s a better conversation point for St. Patty’s Day bar-talk than asking the gorgeous woman next to you for a kiss with your green tongue doing the talking!
Other Irish/Dry Stouts in Morgantown:
Note: Photos courtesy Ratebeer.com, Guinness, and Punjabi Graphics, and the author.