Irish Ales are Smiling

Skip the green beer and try a local Irish red

One afternoon in the week leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day, it was harder to locate a single Irish-style red ale than to find a four-leaf clover (of which I once found three in an afternoon).

Bless Moylan’s Brewery and their faithful for keeping Paddy’s Irish Red Ale (22-ounce) readily available in local markets. Once a personal favorite, this bronze-hued ale (quite a bit lighter than Smithwick’s, for Irish ale geeks out there) seems less robust than past batches, but there’s something about the sweet, malty aroma that distinguishes it from the average California pale ale. Sister company Marin Brewing makes a St. Brendan’s Irish Red Ale.

Bless also newcomer Warped Brewing in Sebastopol. Assistant brewer Mark Lagris says that in their fifth week of operation, they already have an Irish red ale settling in the tank. It will be available on tap by Saint Patrick’s Day. Tentatively called Red Circle of Death, it’s “Irish” because of the particulars of the mash bill, says Lagris, and it’s fermented with a specific yeast strain.

In Petaluma, Dempsey’s Brewery has, at times, released its Sonoma Irish Ale in 22-ounce bottles. On a darker note, despite advertised bottles, Third Street Aleworks’ Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout is currently only available on tap. For me, Blarney Sisters is a successful Irish-style stout largely because it doesn’t remind me of soy sauce (which is not necessarily a bad quality). Mellow but substantial, it’s a smooth mouthful of charred grain and cocoa, with a reasonably compact head. Also rich and dark, but weighing in at just 5 percent alcohol, Moylan’s releases Dragoons Dry Irish Stout in keg and bottle (which I was unable to locate this time around), while in Cloverdale, Ruth McGowan’s Dry Irish Stout is just 4.5 percent ABV.

It might be argued that the whole point of these sorts of themed drinking holidays is to obtain said nation’s bestselling alcoholic beverage, drink up, and be done with it. There’s plenty of Guinness, so who needs Irish-style stout? Well, there was a time when the term “beer snob” was as laughably incongruous as, say, “Irish real estate bubble.” It’s a different time. And I like to have delicious choices from this style of ale that, like Guinness, tastes best when fresh and served not many miles from where it’s made.