When it comes to choosing a brew to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, it's hard to escape the long arm of Guinness, though I'm not sure why you'd want to. Their draught-style stout in a can with its nitrogen-releasing widget is about as close to a pub pour as you can get. And if you like a Black and Tan, the tan is typically Bass, an English ale to be sure, but that's all right because the Irish always comes out on top. Prefer something lighter? Harp Lager fits the bill and, of course, it's brewed by Guinness. It has a surprisingly nice hit of hops with a clean, dry finish. If an ale is more your style, try the Smithwick's (pronounced "smit-iks") Irish Ale, a copper-colored, richly textured, full-bodied brew. This is the real deal from the family brewery at St. Francis Abbey in Kilkenny, which has been in operation since 1710. That's some 50 years longer than Guinness, and that's saying something so, of course, it's a part of the Guinness family now. Let the Irish in you come out this March 17—raise a pint of your favorite flavor, for the comfort that's in it.
Here are a couple of new arrivals on the Boise beer scene, both completely worthy:
Black Sheep Ale
Founded in 1992, Black Sheep Brewery is something of a newcomer in the realm of British brewing, but this North Yorkshire operation is headed by Paul Theakston, whose family has been associated with fine beer for almost two centuries. They use restored antique brewing vessels to make their ale. This traditional Yorkshire ale shows light grain aromas with a nice kiss of fresh, citrusy hops. That freshness continues on the palate with subtle, sweet apple flavors coloring the smooth malt and soft hops. Nice touches of orange, spice and smoke mark the grain-laced finish.
Hale's Troll Porter
Hale's Ales Brewery has been around since 1983, making them one of the Northwest's oldest. Their Troll Porter is an opaque, ebony-colored brew that's lightly carbonated and throws a thin, tan head. It offers deep, dark toasted malt aromas laced with herbal hops. The flavors are smooth and silky, exploding with chocolate malt and nicely bitter espresso. The bottle doesn't list the alcohol content, but this oh-so-smooth brew definitely packs a punch. Available in 22-ounce bottles only.