St. Patrick's Day, as far as I can make out, is a day when one is supposed to celebrate the triumphs of Ireland, its writers, thinkers, musicians, and playwrights, its cultural contributions to the world and the influences of those who left during the diaspora by drinking a hectalitre of Budweiser with some kidney-destroying green dye in it, singing a song filled with wack-fol-de-diddle-idle-crap, starting a fight where both sides lose and then vomiting into someone's shrubbery. A reasonable way to pay tribute to a people who, like the Scots, are very good at drinking, fighting and being oppressed by the Brits, although at least we have the good sense to not to run around in skirts.
Each year, I brace myself for the usual trials: radio-waves packed with Irish accents that are as cartoonishly unconvincing as Michael Flatley's hair, enough stupid green leprechauns everywhere to have Darby O'Gill reaching for his pitchfork and hordes of people ordering a Guinness and then only drinking half a pint while exclaiming, "it's so thick! It's like a meal!" Guinness is a meal like those little cracker packs with the orange rubber you spread with a razor-sharp red plastic rectangle are a meal. It barely qualifies as a snack.
Here's the thing, I'd be considered fairly Irish by any yardstick. I've got red hair, a "Mc" in my last name, dual-citizenship, and a fondness for potatoes. But even I consider that the Emerald Isle has only really contributed two things of note to human history: the Book of Kells, and Father Ted.
And not necessarily in that order.
As such, I regard Guinness with a fair degree of suspicion. Oh sure, it's traditional, and of course I bought one to toast my cousins, aunts and uncles overseas, but it's kind of like U2. Sometimes it's not bad, but it's a little embarrassing to be a SUPER HUGE FAN, dontcha think? Also, if you know anything about the history of Guinness in Ireland, they've basically taken over nearly every pub like the beer-Borg. Unlike the UK with its wealth of real ales, Ireland has little going on in the microbrew scene, unless you start looking at things like cider, and then there's quite a bit, which is an interesting reverse of the situation here (although that's rapidly changing with Merridale, Sea Cider and others).
So, a pint of the Black Stuff, but only just the one, as I following it up with something better.
If you're out-by, as I've said, try to find yourself a Backhand of God or a Black Plague on tap. If you're looking for a dry Irish stout that you can get in an easy-to-carry-home six-pack, then you should pick up one of the most underrated beers on the Island.
This is Lighthouse's Keepers Stout, and we've all seen it on the shelves and reached past it for a bomber of some uber-hopped trice-Imperial brettanomyces ale-porter-stout with 25% ABV and the same viscosity as used 50W engine oil. That's a mistake.
Like many beerthusiasts, my a priori views of Lighthouse have been favourably changed by the surprising excellence of their "Small Brewery - Big Flavour" series, particularly Deckhand Saison. But, truth be told, I've always had a fondness for a few beers out of their lineup and this is one of them.
It's not what you'd call a big-bodied stout, although I'd really be interested to try a cask done on nitro for added creaminess and to keep the head from disappearing faster than the Celtic Tiger. As it is, there's plenty of nose, malts and a little lactic sourness on the palate and a crisp, dry, roasted finish that'll have you craving a second one.