When you’re a kid, the mid- March celebration of all things Irish was mostly tainted with memories of forgetting to wear green in the fourth grade and spending the whole day fending off that one kid who was a little too eager to pinch everyone. Maybe you were that kid.
But you grew out of that (or you’re reading this from inside your shared cell in the county pokey) and now, as an adult, St. Patrick’s Day comes again. And what is it that makes this holiday so superior to its childhood antecedent?
Beer. As if you had to ask. The Irish are known for their brew craft. Just as any sojourn through Italy is nothing without enjoying a glass of wine, no trip to the Emerald Isle can be undertaken without a tour of the Guinness brewery in Dublin. But what about those revelers who aren’t fans of the famously stout brew? What about the ones who want to branch out a little? Local bartenders and liquor store workers recommend more than Guinness this March.
“When I talk to a customer on St. Patrick’s Day, I ask what do they normally drink,” said Diana Ogle, bartender at Sean Cummings’ Irish Restaurant & Pub, 7521 N. May. “A lot of people say Bud Light or Budweiser. When they have that typical response, I tell them to try Harp, an Irish lager. It’s a strong beer with a little bit of a kick, but it doesn’t have the stigma of heavy beer. I get a lot of converts that way.”
above Sean Cummings and Danielle Miller at Sean Cummings Irish Restaurant & Pub
And that wasn’t her only suggestion. “Another one we’ve got on tap here is Smithwick’s, a dark brown ale, the oldest of the Irish ales,” Ogle said. “Your Sam Adams drinkers, I try to steer them there.”
Fans of Erin will fill Sean Cummings’ on Thursday. The bar will feature traditional Irish pub music, as well as a pub menu featuring shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash, among other Irish favorites. One thing that’s off the table is green beer — no dye will taint the suds at this spot.
Joe Wolf, bar manager at McNellie’s, 1100 Classen Drive, also will not be coloring his beer. But the bar, in the heart of Midtown, will close down a section of Walker Avenue north of N.W. 10th Street for a massive outdoor celebration beginning at noon on Thursday.
For those wanting to sample a broader taste of Irish beer and branch out from Guinness, Wolf recommends Murphy’s Irish Red.
“It’s a staple beer,” he said. “The name Murphy’s is pretty well known. It got its popularity through the stout, but a lot of people who don’t like the stout flavor go for the Red, because it’s a lighter beer.”
Wolf also notes that Smithwick’s, Harp and, yes, Guinness all are popular with regulars as well as St. Patrick’s Day celebrants. And for those watching their calories and afraid a pint of the classic dark beer will be like adding another meal, Ogle has good news.
“It has fewer calories than all of the rest of your beers,” she said. “Everybody talks about a pint of Guinness being your daily bread. Yes it is filling, yes it is heavy, but it’s low in calories.”
That knowledge in hand, one may decide to add a little kick to their pint. Staffer LeaAnn Carter at Modern Liquors For Less, 2918 N. Pennsylvania, has noted a recent uptick in Irish whiskey sales.
What makes this holiday so superior? Beer. As if you had to ask.
“The Irish whiskeys are very popular with the under-30 set,” Carter said. “Bushmills and Jameson have been a big hit with the younger crowd.”
There is, of course, the classic Irish Car Bomb: a mixture of Baileys Irish Cream, Irish whiskey and Guinness. Preparation is simple; the whiskey is floated atop the cream in a shot glass, which is then dropped directly into the pint of beer. As with its namesake, the combination is a powerful one, and should be consumed quickly, as the Baileys will curdle.
For the not-so-daring, Irish beer consumed alone can make for a perfectly enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day. American breweries including McSorley’s and Boulevard produce passable Irish ales.
But for the real deal, hoist a pint, toast “Sláinte” (a traditional Celtic salute meaning “health”) and try to keep those pinchers to yourself. You’re an adult, after all. St. Patrick’s Day should be fun for everyone.