California Stout: Guinness Alternatives for St. Patty's Day

How did a holiday celebrating an Irish saint turn into a day of green-hazed and drunken debauchery? Simply put: Americans.

We are not the only culprits, but we're on the top of the list. This day of excess began as one day of respite from the alcoholic oppression of Lent, wherein people were allowed to drink alcohol, moderately. But Americans are not known for moderation (and when given an inch...), meaning that the holiday has morphed from wearing green and having a beer, to people dressing as Leprechauns and bars opening at 7am. Everyone gets kissed, and everyone gets drunk. Pint upon pint of Guinness is downed, some with the blasphemous shot of Jameson's and Bailey's dropped in. So considering that we have made St. Patrick's Day what it is, why not drink beer that we have made as well?

Let's face it, Guinness is good, and perhaps better in Ireland -- although I will debate that any day -- but it's not great. There are dozens of stouts made here in California that equal and often outperform their Irish inspiration. Breweries such as Lagunitas, nestled in an industrial park in Petaluma, gives the style a kick in the pants with the addition of coffee in their Cappuccino Stout. Way up north in Humboldt County, a part of California that is well known for its greenery, there lies the Lost Coast Brewery, home to the full bodied but balanced 8 Ball Stout.

Closer to home there is the now-ubiquitous Stone Brewery, that delivers as much quality as it lacks humility. Here, a bit more robust version of the stout is brewed in the style originally made to survive a long winter journey to Russia. The Russian Imperial Stout is a beast onto itself, and very American in its nature, but knock too many of these back and you may wake up in handcuffs.

We have done more than a fair job of taking inspiration from Irish immigrants and pouring it into a glass, so considering that this holiday belongs to us as much as it does to the Irish, drinking a stout made here seems far more appropriate. Remember this when you raise a pint this Saturday to honor St. Patrick, and make it the beer he would proudly drink here.

[Photo by Mooganic/Flickr]


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I spend my life eating, drinking, cooking, brewing and traveling.
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