Amber Waves, Not Green Ones
Historically, Americans love to appropriate holidays. This is neither a contentious statement nor a criticism, it is merely an observation. Very few holidays, though, have been Americanized quite like St. Patrick's Day. I may no longer ritualistically watch Boondock Saints every March, but I always look forward to the panoply of malt-driven, amber, red, and brown beers this time of year.
I am a huge fan of classic Irish beers like Kilkenny, Harp, Guinness, or O'Hara's. The fact that the only thing actually Irish in our featured lineup this week is the Guinness Blonde (and even that is brewed in Baltimore) is in no way indicative of any antipathy on my part to Irish beer. Quite the contrary! Our St. Patrick's lineup this year is full of beers that bring the best of Irish beer tradition and personality brought to bear through American brewing passion and innovation.
With their new Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore, Guinness now has a brewery in the US for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration. While their name is practically synonymous with stout, Open Gate's ever-expanding lineup of American style beers is spearheaded by the Baltimore Blonde Ale, and as such was the natural choice to begin our tasting.
In the Harpoon Celtic Red Ale and Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale we find two nationally-known and -treasured beers that are perennial staples at St. Patrick's parties for a very good reason. Both breweries were founded in 1986, amidst the first big wave of craft breweries in the US, and both have deep roots in Irish brewing traditions. The Great Lakes Conway's Ale was created is named in honor of their co-Founders' grandfather, a lifelong policeman. Harpoon's Celtic Red may have borne several names over the years, but it has always stayed true to their love for a classic Irish style.
Those of you who have had at least one conversation with me about beer, though, know that our local options are the ones about which I am most excited. Virginia's Old Bust Head Brewing won a Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal last year for Vixen, their Irish-style Red Ale. And yes, it's that good! From Maryland, Brookeville Beer Farm's Clover In The Hills is a smooth and delicious beer that will pair with damn near any food you care to put with it. And DC Brau has been making Auld Dubliner Amber Ale for The Dubliner for a while, but released it in cans earlier this year in cans for the first time.
While it is difficult to pack reactions to six different beers into 500 words, I have always relished a challenge. And when the payoff at the end of the chore is the crack-hiss of a Malty One That Is Cold … well, my friends, I think you know that I am up for the task.
- Eric Kintner