Kiss Me I’m Irish…Sort of!
My name is Bob Weisenberg and I’m fond of craft beer, traveling the globe and meeting new friends along the way.
As spring approaches and the days begin to get longer, I hope we can all start to see the beginnings of a great summer and a return to normalcy…albeit a slightly modified version.
Let’s talk about St. Patrick and some alternative Irish beers to consider this coming Wednesday. With a last name like Weisenberg the last thing you’d imagine was any linage to the Emerald Isle. When in fact I’m actually 30% Irish hailing from county Donegal in the western most part of The Irish Republic. My great grandfather on my mother’s side immigrated to the United States with many other Irishmen and women due to the famous potato famine in 1849. Today The Irish Republic (26 counties in the south) is a proud member of the European Union. The remaining six counties are located in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom.
Having traveled to all parts of Ireland several times for both business and pleasure I can guarantee you it’s one of my favorite places on earth. The Irish people, north to south, are some of the finest humans occupying our small planet.
First a little history which I attempt to weave into all of my articles. Today’s history lesson is all about St. Patrick. St. Patrick, Irelands patron saint, is one of Christianity’s most well know figures. Even today many things are unknown about St. Patrick. Here are some known facts:
• St. Patrick was not Irish…he was born in England to newly religious aristocratic parents in the last part of the 4th century.
• He was captured by Irish druid pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16.
• While a slave he tended sheep and was alone for great stretches of time.
• During his time as a sheep herder he turned to religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.
• He escaped captivity, returned to England and then came back to Ireland to spread the good word. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion.
• He is also credited with the creation of what is now called the Celtic cross. He superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create a symbol that would seem more natural to the Irish.
• He did not rid the Irish isle of snakes.
• He may be known as the patron saint of Ireland, but Patrick was never actually canonized by the Catholic Church.
• He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.
• St. Patrick died on March 17, 460 AD thus we celebrate.
St. Patrick’s Day observes the death of St. Patrick. The holiday today has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of bacon and cabbage…commonly known today as corned beef and cabbage or as it was known in colonial days New England boiled dinner.
More Guinness Stout is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day around the globe than any day of the year. Guinness is a fabulous stout especially when consumed in Ireland. Let me highlight three other beers that you should try while eating your corned beef and cabbage.
Smithwicks Red Ales (pronounced 'smith-icks')
Smithwick's Brewery was founded by John Smithwick in 1710 in Kilkenny. Ireland’s oldest brewery is on the site of a Franciscan abbey, where monks had brewed ale since the 14th century, and ruins of the original abbey still remain on its grounds. This ale is a copper colored ale with a thick, pillowy head. The aroma is sweet with malty caramel notes. It has a very clean taste with great hop flavors. This is the most consumed ale in Ireland at 4.5% ABV.
A relative new comer to the Irish beer scene, Harp was created in 1960 and is brewed in Dundalk and Dublin. Dundalk is located on the eastern Irish coast near the border of Northern Ireland. It was created in response to the trend among drinkers in Ireland and the UK towards the need of a “Continental” lager...think “tastes great- less filling”. This golden-amber lager offers slightly sweet malt aromas with some floral hop scents. It is medium bodied with a creamy mouth feel, a good anytime lager delivering 4.5% ABV.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
Even though I love Guinness Stout I really love Murphy’s Irish Stout. Like America many beers in Ireland are regionally based and consumed. Harp is greatly loved in the north and west of Ireland. Murphy’s is loved from those in the very south of Ireland. Murphy’s has been brewed since 1856 in the iconic Lady’s Well Brewery in Cork City. Classified as an Irish Dry Stout, Murphy’s is dark in color and medium-bodied. It is silky smooth with toffee & coffee undertones with almost no bitterness, and an irresistible creamy finish. At just 4% ABV this like many Irish beers won’t fill you up.
All of these ales, lagers and stouts can be found at BevMo, or your favorite food retailer.
Our local brewers have a variety of stouts and ales to choose from. Some of my favorite stouts come from Idol Beerworks with a stout called Dirty Lil' Secret Toffee Stout at 7% ABV and High Water Brewing’s famous Camp Fire Stout franchise. I encourage everyone to support our local breweries.
Until next time have a beer with a friend, be socially distant, and be safe.
Wishing you in Gaelic “Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaiobh” – Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Bob is a semi-retired HVAC executive and lifelong lover of beer while living the good life in Woodbridge.