By Chris Maza
Ah, St. Patrick's Day. That wonderful time of the year when my wife tells me that it is not only my duty, but an obligation, to celebrate the small percentage of Irish blood I have running through my body.
Until I met my better half, the St. Patrick's Day holiday was not much of a big deal. In my younger years, it was typical to grab some friends, go to the local watering hole, and play one of my favorite games "How Irish Are They?" Hint: Usually the ones trying the hardest to convince people they are of Irish descent are the ones who are not.
It's also a time when people try to embrace their inner Irishman by ordering a Killian's Irish Red. Killian's is one of the finer products produced by MillerCoors, but here are other beers in the Irish Red family that offer more character, many of them at a similar price. So before you automatically reach for the same old thing, give one of these a try:
Quinn's Amber Ale, Wachusett Brewing Company
Quinn's, which is named after one of Wachusett Brewing Company's founding brewers, Peter Quinn, is a little bit lighter than you'd expect from a beer of this style, but don't let the hue fool you into thinking that it is lacking any flavor. It's sweet like a red, thanks to hints of caramel, but also incredibly balanced with just the right amount of carbonation, making it a tasty beer with a very smooth finish.
Samuel Adams Irish Red, Boston Beer Company
The first thing that jumps out about this one is it is true to the name. This beer pours red. All Irish red ales are going to have a high in malt profile. It's their nature. But Samuel Adams' take includes a little bit of hoppiness on the back end, adding to the complexity of the flavor. It's an easy drinker with a decent amount of carbonation.
Hooker Irish Red, Thomas Hooker Ales & Lagers
This offering from one of the more popular Connecticut breweries pours extremely dark, almost brown, and carries with it a very nice palate of brown sugar and caramel. It doesn't possess the same hop profile as a Samuel Adams, but with a little bit of nuttiness and smoked flavor, it still balances well and doesn't finish too sweet. If there's one complaint, this beer tends to be a bit on the heavier side.
Redheaded Stepchild, Northampton Brewery
If your St. Patrick's Day celebrations take you to Northampton, be sure to stop at the Northampton Brewery for the Redheaded Stepchild. One of my go-to selections at the Brewery, the Stepchild is one of the lighter beers of this variety you'll find. The hops are also much more present than in most other Irish reds I've tried in the past, but the malts are still very much there with hints of honey. It's light-bodied and well carbonated with a crisp finish.
Samuel Adams Brick Red, Boston Beer Company
I hate to list two beers from the same company, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Brick Red. Maybe it's because the first time I had this beer, it was served to me by an Irish national at a bar in Boston, but this beer has always epitomized the style for me.
Unlike the Samuel Adams Irish Red, the Brick Red does not feature hops nearly as prominently, relying on a very complex malt profile to carry it with some terrific caramel notes.
It's allegedly available in bottles, but I have only seen it in select bars and restaurants in the Boston area, so if you are out east, maybe to catch the parade in Southie, track this down.
In addition to drinking a great beer, you'll be helping a very cool cause. For every pint of Brick Red sold, an additional donation will be made to the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Foundation, which helps small business owners in the hospitality industry in the Northeast. Each keg enjoyed throughout the Boston ara will trigger an additional donation of $4 to the fund.
A complete list of locations where it is available can be found at www.samueladams.com/_assets/btad-promotions/cd7b932a-6218-41ac-8638-e8b0ff50ec5c.pdf .
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