Sure, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until Monday, but to me, it’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend this weekend! You’ll be seeing pubs and bars full of people sporting green clothing and drinking either green beer or Guinness Stout. St. Patrick’s Day also marks the anniversary of when I finally got my driver’s licence, and more importantly — St. Patrick’s Day is my dad, Rollie’s birthday. He’s turning the big six-oh this year. Happy birthday, dad!
I tend to celebrate every day as a St. Patrick’s Day so March 17 is just another day of drinking and celebrating a cultural background you aren’t part of. Actually, I’m kidding — though I do love my beers. I’m frankly bored of the Guinness and dyed-green Moosehead/Bud Lights year after year after year so I feel it’s time to give a bit of an alternative to the St. Patrick’s Day staples.
Let’s start off with O’Hara’s Irish Stout, the staple product by Ireland’s Carlow Brewing. O’Hara’s Irish Stout has been brewed since 1999 and has become one of the most popular Irish beers since then. O’Hara’s is your typical stout, as thick as the night is dark. It gives off a very welcoming coffee and chocolate aroma, almost like a breakfast treat. As for flavour, it’s a bit rich, a bit bitter, yet a bit sweet. Tastes of freshly roasted coffee beans, some dark chocolate, a bit of cream, bitter like coffee, but certainly a nice treat that would be great with pancakes, bacon and eggs.
The bitterness of the malted barley, which gives it the notes of coffee, does seem to linger on my tastebuds for a while, that would scare off a lot of people, but for those looking for an Irish alternative to Guinness, O’Hara’s is certainly worth trying.
It’s 4.3 per cent ABV and comes in 500 mL bottles at local Liquor Marts in Brandon, Minnedosa and Virden. It’s $4.27 before taxes so it is a bit pricey, but it’s a great stout to try as an alternative to Guinness, because personally, I like a stout that has a bit of a bite, which I feel Guinness doesn’t, so notes of coffee and chocolate is a nice breakfast stout!
Next up, a beer that’s not necessarily an Irish beer at all, but a Scottish beer that adds Irish whiskey to the mix to give it a nice kick. Innis & Gunn has been one of the most famous barrel-aged beer brands on the planet — which is quite a feat as barrel-aging beers has become so popular that nearly every brewery in North America is doing it now days to give their beers a bit of a whisky/bourbon/rum bite.
In this case, Innis & Gunn has recently come out with an Irish Whiskey Finish version of their beer. The Irish Whiskey Finish is a Scottish stout that’s aged in Irish whiskey barrels for 60 days to give it a thick heavy stout-meets-whiskey bite to it. I’ve tasted a lot of whisky/bourbon barrel beers in my day, and that’s something I just can’t get tired of, so props to Innis & Gunn!
Irish Whiskey Finish is a dark dark stout that’s reminiscent to Coca Cola in appearance, but for aroma, it’s nothing like Coke in any way! The scents of oak, roasted barley malt, vanilla and whiskey are very much dominant in the beer. This tastes of a slightly watered-down whiskey but has a decent amount of vanilla bite to it.
Considering this is a stout, the Irish Finish isn’t as heavy or bitter as the O’Hara’s from earlier. I’ve had many varieties of Innis & Gunn in the past few years and compared to the Canadian Whisky Cask and Rum Finish Cask, this Irish Whiskey Finish isn’t as in-your-face as most Innis & Gunn beers, even for a stout, it’s quite lighter than a Guinness, but the flavours of whiskey, vanilla and a hint of caramel are always a great treat to have.
I am already wanting a second bottle even though I still have half left.
The Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish tops out at 7.4 per cent ABV, is available in 355 mL bottles at Liquor Marts in Russell and the 10th and Victoria location in Brandon.
Lastly, for those who aren’t a fan of stouts, you can continue to drink golden lagers with some green food colouring in it to give it a festive touch to it. Three beers I recommend are all Manitoban-based. First off — St James Pale Ale by Half Pints Brewing, a great pale ale that’s very easy drinking and enjoyable for the most finicky beer drinker. Fort Garry’s Frontier Pilsner is another one that’s great to celebrate to, and lastly — Westman’s own Farmery Premium Lager. The beer isn’t brewed in Manitoba at all, but by Muskoka Brewery in Ontario, but when they get the brewing barn up and running, it will be creating jobs for the Westman economy.
Not a fan of beer? My dad Rollie suggests Sheridan’s Original Coffee-flavoured Liqueur. White chocolate meets whisky and coffee means a great pick-me-up in the AM of a day off or birthday.
Remember folks, don’t drink and drive this St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, get a friend to DD, take a cab, use transit and know when you’ve had too much.@15.7.1 sat tab HEADERS:New beers at the Liquor Mart:McEwan’s Scotch Ale
A sweet, caramelly and nutty ale that’s high in alcohol content at 8 per cent ABV. Very much an after-dinner kind of ale. Enjoy with butter tarts or a fruit filled danish/croissant. $2.53 for a 330 mL bottle at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Russell. @15.7.1 sat tab HEADERS:Kaleidoscope Mosaic IPA
A great India Pale Ale by the folks over at Phillip’s Brewing in Victoria, BC. I thought of its flavour as tasting like grain dust entering your senses from shovelling out graineries on the farm followed by a citrusy pineapple sweetness and a liberal amount of hops to give it a rich pine-like bitterness. Best enjoyed ASAP. Phillips has several other India Pale Ales available at local Liquormarts as well. Kaleidoscope is $5.75 for a 650 mL bottle and available at the Liquor Marts in Russell and 10th & Victoria location in Brandon. 8.5 per cent ABV.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2014