by James Crane
The king of St. Patrick’s Day brews
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! I’m sure we’re all excited about eating the traditional corned beef and cabbage. However, let’s try not to get too sidetracked by that and remember the real reason for the holiday: obsessive drinking and singing whatever lyrics from “Danny Boy” we manage to remember.
The big question shouldn’t be how much green we wear; it should be what will we drink?
Don’t worry. I’m here to help.
During a celebration of all things Irish, it would make sense to drink an Irish beer. But what does that entail? The obvious idea that comes to mind is Guinness. Stouts and Porters have a definite Irish image associated with them with Guinness being the most well known. While perhaps not my favorite, it is certainly one of the most distinct.
What if one isn’t a fan of dark beers? Malty and sweet Red Ales are also a rather popular style in Ireland. You’re probably familiar with Killian’s Irish Red, the most well known of the style in the states. Many breweries produce their own reds as well. It’s become an even more popular style over the years with variations such as Imperial Reds and Red IPAs being released. Reds are generally easy to drink, sweet and toothy, though not as filling as a stout.
These certainly wouldn’t be the only options you’d find in Ireland, however. The Irish drink beers from all over the planet of all different styles, just as we do. They have their share of imported European Lagers and Belgian styles as well. There comes a time when one must stop searching for authenticity and forge ahead, creating your own traditions. It is in that vein that I bring you my 2013 St. Patrick Day’s brew of the year: I call it the Pennsylvania Imperial black and tan.
A black and tan is a stout poured on top of a pale ale, generally Guinness and Smithwick’s. While it’s arguable that the black and tan is more English than Irish (the name itself is somewhat offensive in Ireland for reasons I won’t go into), the inclusion of the stout makes it the perfect drink for me. I’ve selected California’s Sierra Nevada Pale ale and Pennsylvania’s own Victory Brewing’s Storm King Stout.
The pour was visually pleasing, though the two did not stay separated long. The big and syrupy Storm king almost instantly cut through the Pale Ale. The head was thick and creamy and the body was dark as night. It smelled of roasted malts, dark fruit, alcohol and sweet cereal; a nice mix of the two brews.The taste wasn’t really more than the sum of its parts. It was like a lighter Storm King but with more cereal sweetness. It was more drinkable than straight stout, the Sierra Nevada cutting through the Storm King to lighten it up a bit. The stout, full of dark fruit, heavy roasted malt, cocoa, and coffee flavors is made slightly lighter and more savory. Make no mistake, however. It is still certainly the Storm King that is taking center stage. Was it the best combination ever? Probably not, but it was good. More importantly, it was fun.
Whatever and wherever you drink this St. Patrick’s Day, fun should be your secondary goal, surpassed only by being safe. Third, of course, is getting through more than one verse of “hang down your head, Tom Dooley.” If you can accomplish those three things, I’d say you’ll have a very successful holiday indeed.