I know I’m not alone when I say I’m not a fan of Guinness. Nothing against lovers of that particular Stout, or the Stout itself. It just doesn’t suit my tastes. And before you ask, yes, I have genuinely made the effort to find a way to like it. After all, I’m Irish. I’m supposed to not just like it, but love it. I’ve experienced the perfect pint, I’ve tried the different variations, but I’m just not a fan. So come Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m always looking for a good alternative, while trying to stay connected to the green.
The fact is, Stouts are not for everyone. Only recently have I found my taste for a good Stout, but I’m extremely picky about what I’ll bring home. I’m always willing to try, but very few make it to my fridge. So this list is completely devoid of Stouts. If you’re a fan of the style, then you know what to look for, anyway and this blog isn’t for you!
Very often, especially in recent weeks, I have people ask me “So what should I drink on Saint Patrick’s Day, if I don’t like Guinness?” With that in mind, this entry is all about alternatives to Guinness for those that celebrate Lá Fhéile Pádraig. I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet!
Let’s start with Murphy’s “Premium Red Ale.”
Murphy’s has become my beer of choice for Saint Patrick’s Day in 2013. Well, not just for the day…I’ve been drinking it all week. A little light bodied for your traditional Red, but smooth and flavorful nonetheless. Most of the flavor in this one, like the other Reds, comes from the malts and grains, but this one adds a little bit of a floral hop to the profile. Clean and crisp, this Irish Red has been a nice surprise for me. Another beer that’s readily available at most places that carry a decent selection of beer. Brewed in Cork, Ireland, look for this one near the Killian’s and Guinness, most likely in the Imports section.
For the craft beer fans, if you can find it, pick yourself up some Harpoon Celtic Ale. Truth be told, I’m pretty irritated that it hasn’t appeared in my area this year. It’s my hands down favorite Red. I blogged about it this time last year. That entry can be found here: Harpoon Celtic Ale (Irish Style Red)
Here’s a snippet from that blog: “I was surprised to see such a large, foamy head when I poured this into the glass. Considering the lighter taste, I just didn’t expect it. It’s medium-bodied with a nice, reddish color and leaves behind light lacing. Pleasant, sweet smell to this one, too. Maybe a little touch of citrus to the aroma.
Another thing that surprised me was that the light carbonation lasted throughout the glass. Every Harpoon I’ve had has been very smooth, including this one. So to see the continued bubbling, that didn’t match the feel, was kind of neat. It definitely lightened the taste up a bit.”
Next up, the old standby: Killian’s Irish Red.
Readily available at most places that sell beer, Killian’s is a step above your average beer. A little more flavor, beautiful coloring and a nice poor. Like most Irish Reds, Killian’s flavor is heavy on the malts. It’s medium-bodied with average carbonation. A little creamier than most of your high-volume brews. Available in the US since 1981, Killian’s Irish Red is still fairly true to it’s roots. Since it’s so readily available and of a better-than-average quality, Killian’s Irish Red makes a great alternative for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Next: Harp Lager
Also available at most locations that sell beer, Harp is probably the most popular alternative to Guinness on Saint Patrick’s Day. Brewed by Guinness in Dundalk, this pale lager is significantly more flavorful than most of the other high volume examples of the style. Light to medium bodied and light color, the flavor is provided mostly by the malts and grains, with a little hint of hops thrown in. A simple beer and a great alternative for those who prefer to stay on the lighter side of things. But if you happen to have a pint of Guinness and a pint of Harp, go for the half and half mix. While I’m not a big fan of either, a combination of the two is actually very enjoyable.
Another offering from Guinness is Smithwick’s Irish Red Ale. For me, Smithwick’s is a step above Killian’s. Better flavor, smoother, very well-balanced and a little more traditional. Smithwick’s is my go-to pint when I’m in a pub that doesn’t offer craft beer. Sweet malts, light grains and a hint of brown sugar and caramel create a nice blend that’s easy on the palate. Very drinkable!
I’ll offer one last alternative, so as not to overload those brain cells, which at this point, should really be looking forward to a nice, cold pint. This one is new to the market and has been another nice surprise: Sam Adams Irish Red.
The fine folks over at Sam Adams seem to be really testing their range lately, offering some new and different brews. And while there are a few good ones, those are for a different entry.
This traditional Irish Red Ale is a solid entry in the style. Nothing extreme, nothing to make it standout…but then, that’s what makes it good. Very well balanced and smooth. And like the others, the flavor comes primarily from the malts and grains. There is the slightest hint of hops in the end, in a pleasant way. Had I not picked up the Murphy’s, I’d be drinking this on Saint Patrick’s Day. If you’re a fan of Sam Adams, this is the one for you.