Drinking beers themed around an event, occasion or day of significance is a fun and flavoursome way to discover the diverse and sometimes quirky corners of beer. Matching a beer’s name, style or label design to a holiday celebration, notable date, football grand final, or the return of Game of Thrones to your Sunday night viewing is increasingly easy with the growing range of beers that are available these days. The rise of inventive craft brewers has also broadened theme drinking potential for almost any occasion.
Next on the calendar of such occasions is St Patrick’s Day on Sunday. The celebration of Ireland’s most famous patron saint on March 17 holds significance for across from Australia and New Zealand, with our ties to immigrant heritage, or marriage to a McGovern.
To modern generations, the day’s meaning is commonly reduced to wearing something green, a bit of talk about leprechauns in an exaggerated Irish accent, and when it comes to beer, “a pint of Guinness thanks”.
The flagship beer brand of Ireland has a global stranglehold on the Feast of Saint Patrick. However, on this side of the globe, the money you spend on such a pint and the beverage you subsequently consume may actually be more distant to Ireland than the foam shamrock hat on your head that you purchased from a two dollar shop.
It’s easy to walk into a bottle shop or liquor barn these days and pick up a Guinness or Kilkenny. However, if you want the authentic product, rather than versions of these popular beers brewed under licence for Lion in South Australia, you will need to dig a little further and you may be able to track down the occasional grey and not-so-fresh import.
Alternatively, Australia’s own brewers are crafting beers with Irish inspiration that provide a creamy and quaffable local nod to the Emerald Isle. They provide drinkers the opportunity to “drink Irish” whilst supporting Australia’s small brewing industry and experiencing handcrafted beer that has been brewed with natural ingredients.
Generally, many craft brewers seem to favour brewing variations of American and Russian Imperial stouts these days. Nevertheless, there are still a number of enjoyable local stouts that are more reminiscent of Guinness’s dry Irish stout style.
The Grand Ridge Hatlifter Stout and Prickly Moses Otway Stout, both from Victoria, are also classic dry stouts that can be suitably substituted for Guinness.
Drinkers in Sydney will be able to enjoy freshly brewed Irish style draught stouts at beer venues such as Lord Nelson, 4 Pines and Murray’s.
Late last month The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel released Anileation, a Dry Irish Stout with espresso and cocoa characters and a chocolate bitterness. This week 4 Pines Brewing adds to their Keller Door release series with a St Pat’s Stout series of three stouts, including a Dry Irish Stout.
The annual St Patrick’s Day release from Murray’s Craft Brewing – Tinker’s Curse Dry Irish Stout – will be available on tap all weekend, Friday to Sunday, at the Murray’s Port Stephens Brewery and at Murray’s at Manly. The classic 4% Dry Irish Stout with a big roasty bite is designed to be enjoyed by the pint.
St Patrick’s Day in Melbourne marks the return of The Craic at the Portland Hotel James Squire Brewhouse. The Irish stout, popular with city drinkers, is still brewed onsite in the pub’s microbrewery and will be accompanied by traditional Irish fare such as soda bread, Irish stew, coddle, stout and beef pie and fresh trout.
Front of mind is the Bridge Road Brewers Celtic Red Ale. Victorian breweries have also produced the Prickly Moses Red Ale and the 3.6%abv Irish Red from Forrest Brewery which is available in 500ml bottles. Red Duck seasonally bottles their Red Admiral Celtic Ale, a big malty Irish ale, but it can be hard to track down outside of western Victoria.
New South Wales also offers a smattering of Irish Red Ales, with Rocks Brewing The Boxer at Harts Pub and Sydney Brewhouse’s Dr Schwartz Irish Red available on tap. Black Duck Brewery has bottles of their Heron’s Craic Irish Red available at their Port Macquarie cellar door.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Canberra on St Patrick’s Day, the Wig & Pen Ballyragget Irish Red Ale is always a traditional handpumped treat.
For an usual tipple, Cephalopod is the latest cross style smash-up in the crafty adventures of Doctor’s Orders Brewing. Cephalopod is a Black Berliner Weisse style beer that has been turned green in colour due to the use of squid ink. It will provide a tart twist on the colour of Catholic Ireland, on tap at bars such as Josie Bones, The Local Taphouse in Melbourne and Sydney and the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Adelaide.
International craft beers for the occasion that you may find in speciality beer shops around the country include two from the Champion Brewery at the 2011 Australian International Beer Awards. Moylan’s Brewery from California distributes 650ml bottles of their Dragoons Dry Irish Stout and Danny’s Irish Style Red Ale to Australia through Northdown Craft Beer.
If your local craft beer retail options are limited but you have a Dan Murphy’s in range, try the Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale. This US import has also been influenced by the Irish style red ale.
If all else fails, buy a bottle of your favourite local Pale Ale and add a few drops of green food colouring.
By buying and drinking Australian craft beers with an Irish twist you can justly celebrate our Australian-Ireland ties. To be sure.
Leave a comment if you have any other suggestions for local beers that will provide an Irish flavour to your St Patrick’s Day.