Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. XCII)

A special Saint Patrick’s Day edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the green-clad micks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find your pot of wine, whiskey, and beer at the end of the rainbow.

Let’s face it, while we can pretend that Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of the patron saint of the Emerald Isle and the culture of the Irish people, it’s really all about drinking too much and acting stupid. Which upon further reflection is probably the most appropriate way to honor the Irish after all. And while no small amount of Irish whiskey will no doubt be consumed today, the primary focus will be on beer.

Despite what you might have learned from hanging out at American bars on Saint Patrick’s Day, green-colored beer is not a traditional Irish beverage. So if you’re going to quaff an American macro today at least have the decency to drink it in its natural pale yellow hue. Even better of course is to stick with real Irish beer.

The obvious choice is Guinness, although if you get your hands on a Beamish or Murphy’s your Irish stout needs will also be well served. However, man cannot live on stout alone and so I suggest mixing it up a bit today. While some might prefer the lighter body and crisper taste of a Harp Lager, my personal choice for a widely available Irish alternative to one of the stouts is Smithwick’s Red Ale:

Smithwick’s is THE Irish Red Ale. Our "recent” 300 year history commenced with John Smithwick producing his first brews in 1710, thus establishing Smithwick’s legacy as “Ireland’s longest established brewer” and the “oldest working brewery in Ireland.”

While I recommend Smithwick’s as a good alternative to Guinness it is all part of the same family:

Smithwick's (pronounced /ˈsmɪθɨks/ or /ˈsmɪtɨks/, not like the town of Smethwick /ˈsmɛðɨk/) is an Irish red ale style beer from Kilkenny in Ireland. Smithwick’s was originally brewed in St. Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny, known as 'Smithwicks Brewery' until c.2000. The brewery is situated on the site of a Franciscan abbey where monks had brewed ale since the 14th century, and has ruins of the original abbey on its grounds. It is Ireland’s oldest operating brewery, founded by John Smithwick in 1710 on land owned by the Duke of Ormonde. It is the major ale producer in Ireland. It was purchased from Walter Smithwick in 1965 by Guinness and is now, along with Guinness, part of Diageo. Smithwick's as most people know it today was originally created as a special brew for the first Kilkenny Beer Festival, later called Smithwicks No. 1 and now just Smithwicks. The head brewer in those days was Ron Girdham. Smithwick’s for the domestic market is brewed in Kilkenny and the higher strength export variety is brewed in Dundalk. Smithwick's is listed in the top five best tasting beers by the McHale beer rating club of Ireland.

Before you belly up and order a Smithwick’s today, be sure you know how to say the name. While there appear to be some slight regional variations, it you go with “Smid-iks” or “Smit-iks” you’ll be okay. Just stay away from the soft “th” sound.

12oz brown bottle. Green and gold label red trim features name in historic font and castle turret bearing the date of the brewery’s founder.

Style: Irish Red Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

COLOR (0-2): Reddish-brown and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Light maltiness maybe a little grassy, but not much there. 1

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color. Thick and foamy. Good retention and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Caramel malt with bready flavors and very light hop finish. Medium-bodied with a thin and watery mouthfeel. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Fades quickly. 1

OVERALL (0-6): It won't blow you away with flavor, but Smithwick's is a decent Irish ale that goes down easy. Which makes it a perfect companion to Guinness on St. Patrick's day. Like Guinness, I think it tastes better on tap than in the bottle as it's usually thicker and creamier. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13