Hello beer fans and cheers to the holiday that was St. Patrick’s Day! By pure dumb luck, I get to kick this project off on one of the most beer-centric holidays besides the Super Bowl. So sit, down, grab a glass and let’s get this thing started.
To start this off, I decided to go with a beer that many of you have probably seen but perhaps not been willing to pick up, especially if you’re daunted by the image of dark, heavy stouts the Guinness name tends to carry. An Irish Red Ale, Smithwick’s is a great beer of choice when celebrating the day where everybody is Irish. It’s readily available in most convenient stores and super markets, relatively cheap, sold cold and comes most commonly in six and 12-packs as well as draft depending on the bar.
This is in my quick select of beers to get when I plan on drinking more than one or two. I tend to drink mine straight from the bottle but poured this one into a glass to demonstrate the beer’s namesake trait.
While you’re pouring the beer, you get a light crisp, biscuit and hoppy smell. The beer pours a deep ruby color and keeps a short but firm foamy head and laces nicely as you drink it. Flavor wise, the beer is full-bodied but not thick like Guinness’ flagship stout. Upfront you’ll experience a nice sweet biscuit and malty flavor that finishes with a dry, hop note that does a good job at cleaning the heavier malty flavors away before having another slug. When taken straight from the fridge, the brew has a slightly more prevalent bite to it but as it warms up – I personally like this beer at room temperature – the malt and bready qualities come forward and the foamy heads gets a little more bigger; both qualities I enjoy in beers like this.
This beer is great to drink with any variety of bar snack like pretzels, chips and – surprise, surprise – also goes great with savory meats and vegetables found in dishes like corned beef and cabbage.
If you’ve seen this and haven’t pulled the trigger, its very much worth a shot, especially if you haven’t tried too many other beers. It offers a lot flavor wise and is a great gateway to trying darker beers like other amber/red or brown ales, porters, stouts, etc.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
Now for this next one, I decided to go a little off the beaten path. This isn’t too far down the craft beer road since, in the spirit of the holiday, we want something we can run to the supermarket and get. Keeping that in mind, I passed up on the traditional Guinness and picked up a four pack of Murphy’s Irish Stout.
Considered one of the bigger competitors to the Guinness everybody knows, this variations of one of the most popular stout varieties offers something a little different from Guinness. Personally, Guinness is dark chocolate and hops forward, giving it a sweet yet bitter and dry taste that is made drinkable by the nitrogen the beer is most commonly infused with. Murphy’s is similar but instead of being chocolate forward, its malts and bready goodness.
(To avoid a tangent, please follow the “nitrogen” link above to learn more about what nitrogen does for a beer. It’s really cool and has lent to some of my favorite beers.)
So, for the record, when I say something is malty or bready, I don’t mean like sandwich bread. Instead, I mean that type of carbohydrate packed goodness you get from a really good shortbread cookie like a Trefoil or a Lorna Doone but not as sweet. In this beer’s case, the flavor is something like a creamy, semi-sweet pound cake with a hint of chocolate on the end. Don’t be daunted by the color of this beer and its initial mouthfeel, that’s just the roasted malts and nitrogen fooling you into thinking this is a pork chop in a glass. Once you get by those initial perceptions, you’ll find the body of the beer is quite thin and finishes very clean aside from a very faint, yet very nice sweet, malty flavor.
Unlike Smithwick’s, it is HIGHLY recommended this beer gets poured into a glass. The can suggests a light bulb shaped glass (just like the ones in the Sam Adam’s commercials) but as you can see above, I’m drinking mine from a small mug. The whole point of pouring this beer out is because of the nitrogen I mentioned above. There is a little plug you’ll hear rolling around in the can that, when the seal is cracked, will release the nitrogen into the beer, giving it a fresh draft-like flavor, mouthfeel and appearance. For those who have never seen this in action before, you’re in for a pretty cool treat since the nitrogen bubbles appear to be falling down into the beer instead of floating up to the surface. Check it out, it’s neat.
In closing, this may be a day late for St. Patty’s Day but unlike the world’s supply of aged scotch, there are millions of gallons of this stuff all over the place so go out and celebrate the holidays whenever you’d like. The holiday falling on a Thursday will give you weekend warriors an excuse to break out the green hats and vests and do a little jig while you raise a pint of whatever beer you fancy but if you’re feeling adventurous, give one of these a try. After all, in the end, it’s just a beer. Be back next week and please be sure to let me know your thoughts or ideas on future reviews or topics!