Slainte, thirsty locavores, the holiest day on the drinking calendar approaches!
St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally a holiday of volume consumption, but for craft beer aficionados, it’s more of an excuse to explore the breadth and depth of American craft beer. Instead of opting for pint after pint of Guinness, Minnesotans are more likely to celebrate with a collection of seasonally appropriate local brews.
Dodge the dyed-green Bud Light. This St. Paddy’s, head to your neighborhood taproom and try one of these five brews. They might not be the most traditional Irish fare, but they’re the best Minnesota has to offer during shamrock season.
Castle Danger George Hunter Stout
Stout, 8% ABV, n/a IBU
By far the most by-the-book Irish beer on this list, Castle Danger’s winter seasonal George Hunter Stout is named for brewer Clint MacFarlane’s great-grandfather, who hailed from Belfast but brewed in Tower, Minnesota. In an homage to that immigrant beersmith, Castle Danger put together this stout that’s rich and sugary.
Denser and creamier than your pub-style Irish stout, George Hunter is an obsidian brew that sits in your belly warmly. It has big mocha notes that make it go down with ease, but this thick 8% drink isn’t for knocking back. It embodies the hospitality of the Irish culture without falling squarely into the drinking tradition Hunter brought with him from Belfast.
Bad Weather Windvane
Red ale, 6% ABV, 65 IBU
The IPA is a distinctly British style, and the Irish have not fallen in love with its hoppy, juicy profile the same way Americans have. That’s too bad, because there’s a high degree of synergy between the eminent ale and the ambers of the Emerald Isle.
St. Paul’s Bad Weather have recognized this synergy, and their year-round Windvane red IPA is one of the best examples of the complementary styles melding on the market. With a caramel body and a piney hop aroma, Windvane represents the characteristics of the red ale and IPA in equal measure, bringing them together in the sweetness of the resin. There’s a subtle appreciation for the Irish sensibility, but Bad Weather nudges things in a more American direction -- for a true Minnesotan St. Paddy's Day.
Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout
Imperial stout, 8.5% ABV, 50 IBU
Boozy coffee is perhaps the most appropriated Irish cocktail in America. As such, it’s a touchstone for a lot of drinkers, making it a ripe tradition to draw from on St. Patrick's Day. Lift Bridge created a classic Minnesota beer from the palette of java, Bailey’s, and whiskey, putting out an annual release that’s celebrated every St. Paddy’s Day in Stillwater.
A standout coffee beer in its own right, Irish Coffee Stout is perfect if your Paddy’s pregame starts before noon. Creamy and delicately woody, it’s distinctly a stout as well. There’s an almost bready quality that rounds out the array of flavors, creating a comfortable yet atypical Irish beverage.
Red lager, 5.6% ABV, 60 IBU
“Brassy” isn’t the first descriptor you typically arrive at when drinking a traditionally Irish beer, but Bauhaus doesn’t do typical. They lagerized the red ale, giving it a translucent marmalade body that’s unlike any other beer you’ll see this St. Paddy’s. The resultant brew is innovative and crisp, blending flavors of rye and roasted malt with traditional pale ale hops like columbus, cascade, and amarillo -- thus the brassiness.
Though Bauhaus recommends a sweet-ass Rube Goldberg machine for drinking the beer, a frosty glass mug and a penchant for revisionist history should do the trick. Tallboys of this seasonal curiosity just came back on the market, and it’s a feature over at St. Patrick’s destination Keegan’s Irish Pub.
Red ale, 4.1% ABV, 24 IBU
Released for the first time last year during St. Patrick’s weekend, Omni’s red ale takes the Irish beer to the far-flung land of Southeast Asia. By incorporating fresh ginger in the brew, Rua (a cheeky Irish term for a redhead) brings pep to a style that’s stagnated over time.
Alongside the sweetness of the ale, the beer almost tastes like candied ginger, making Rua light and playful. It’s pretty close to the flavor of fresh ginger beer, so it’s a great introductory beer for novice drinkers. It also sports a St. Paddy’s-friendly 4.1% ABV, so that means it’ll be a dutiful all-day companion for your craic. Rua should be on tap at Omni through the summer, and local pubs in Maple Grove (like the Claddagh Irish Pub, perhaps) will also tap the gingery brew.
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