Wednesday, March 12, 2008
This St. Patrick's Day, forget the artificially green light beer, and pick up a real Irish beer. The Irish have been brewing beer since at least the 12th century, so you can figure they are good at it. Beer generally falls into one of two categories: lagers and ales. But Irish beer has one more category: stout, or porter.
Stout or porter beers are made from roasted malts or barley. They are usually very dark and have a heavy quality. They also usually take longer to pour and need a little time to settle before drinking. The taste is dry and slightly bitter, similar to coffee. Arguably the most famous beer in the world, Guinness, is a stout. Murphy's and Beamish are also readily accessible stouts available in the U.S.
Irish red ale is made using hops and special roasted, malted barley. It is the small amount of roasted barley that gives the ale a red or caramel color. It has a lighter, smoother taste, but is sharper than the stouts—and easier to pour. Smithwicks (pronounce "Smith-ick's") is the easiest red ale to find here in the United States.
The most common type of beer is the lager. Lagers are different from ale because of the type of yeast used. Lager yeast ferments at a lower temperature than the yeast used in ale. There are many variations on this style of beers based on the mix of ingredients. The best known Irish lager is Harp Lager. With its slightly red coloring, and sharp taste, it is the most American tasting of the Irish beers.
Now go have a real beer.