Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
Today’s story will probably be your favorite. While you’re preparing your grocery list for your St. Patrick’s Day event you should also be prepared to serve only the finest spirits. Well, I’m here to help you with that. Let’s take a look at some of the best whiskies and beers offered from the Emerald Isle. Here is where I give the obligatory mention to Jameson’s and Guinness. Those are probably the two most well-known alcoholic beverages and there isn’t much I need to say about them. Instead, I will talk about my favorite choices and you can decide for yourself which one you want to enjoy for this occasion.
When it comes to whiskey, I try a lot of different labels so I’ll try and keep it to a select few. There are only two bottles I get regularly that cost in the $45 and above price range, Redbreast and Connemara. Out of these two I prefer Connemara. It is made by the Kilbeggan Distilling Company and is a peated Irish whiskey. That means that the barley used to make it is smoked with peat (a young form of coal composed of decomposing organic material packed into the ground). That process adds an amazingly deep flavor to the whiskey without taking away from the delicious flavor. I love drinking this one straight up, not even an ice cube. My other favorite, Redbreast, is a single pot still whiskey produced by Irish Distillers, the same group that makes Jameson. This is simply whiskey made by only a single distillery in a pot still. It’s that still that gives the whiskey its crisp, clean flavor. This is another whiskey I love to drink straight up but I also enjoy it over ice.
Moving on to the less expensive whiskies, there are quite a few for me to choose. The least expensive, yet one of the best overall is Tullamore Dew produced by William Grant & Sons. This blended Irish whiskey has a smooth amazing flavor that makes it ridiculously easy to drink. If you like bolder flavors the next step up for a good price is Bushmills Black Bush. This whiskey has more malt than the grain whiskies and its aging in Sherry casks gives it a bit of smokiness to add some punch. It’s not as bold as some other smoky flavored whiskies but it’s enough to create a strong taste. My other go to inexpensive whiskey is The Dubliner by The Dublin Liberties Distilling Company. This whiskey is aged in American bourbon casks for an oaky flavor on top of the sweetness of the fruit and honey flavors. It’s great by itself but it blends well with a strong cocktail. This is my favorite whiskey to add to the Barry’s Irish Tea I enjoy when I wake up early on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Now that I’ve gotten the different whiskies out of the way it’s time to move on to the beers. I’ve already mentioned Guinness and while that is probably the best, I’m not the biggest fan of it coming from a bottle. I feel like it was meant to be served on draft and personally I prefer it that way. But let’s move on to other beers. I am partial to ale beers so I have to start with Smithwick’s Irish Ale. This is a great tasting red ale from Kilkenny created in 1710 and acquired by Guinness in 1965. If you like a medium body beer with a more malty taste then this has to be on the top of your list. Next up is Harp Lager, a light beer with a great finish. If ever I want an Irish beer that is not at all heavy this is what I drink. It has a great smooth taste that is refreshing to the palate. Finishing off my list of beverages for St. Patrick’s Day is Murphy’s Irish Stout. The sweet flavor of a dark stout beer is why they are my most frequent choice when I’m just sitting back and relaxing. Murphy’s has everything you would expect, a chocolaty creamy goodness with distinct coffee notes. If you’re not too full and want to sip on something delicious for dessert, find this beer and smile.
I don’t know which of the above choices I will stock in my cabinet and refrigerator for my guests on Friday but whatever it is I know it will be great. You can’t really go wrong with any of them; it will just depend on what you prefer. There are bold and sweet whiskies, light beers and heavy beers. Some are sweeter than others if that is what you prefer. The only thing you have to remember is that on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish is the only way to go. Eating Irish and drinking Irish will make you feel Irish, even for just one day. Share a cocktail with your friends and family and smile with a wonderful Irish lilt.