by Anna Long
Time to get your green on: St. Patrick’s Day is here.
The annual celebration that began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international excuse for overindulgence. Celebrations across the globe on March 17 will feature parades, dancing, food, and of course, drinks aplenty. But despite what you might assume, the Irish typically drink in a far more civilized manner, says Raleigh’s Dara Ó’Hannaidh, an expat from Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland.
“Irish drinking is quite different to American drinking in terms of etiquette and type of drinking,” he says. “For example, not buying a round in Ireland when it’s your round is about the worst thing you could ever do in Irish culture, and drinking is much longer but slower-paced than in America. We don’t have nearly the amount of selection in Ireland that you have here though.”
Ó’Hannaidh is a Gaelic footballer who represented North America in the All-Ireland kick fada competition against 30 other kickers from around the world in September. He is also an avid homebrewer.
He makes his own beer in part because he believes that beer tastes best in the place where it’s brewed. Even Guinness, the famous dry Irish stout and one of the world’s most successful beers, simply doesn’t taste the same outside of Ireland, he says.
“Truth is that a good Pilsner only tastes its best in (the Czech Republic city of) Plzeň, too – beer just doesn’t travel well in general,” he said. “Some American brewers, the ones who take pride in their product, will not ship beer more than six to eight hours away. Also, the hard water in Dublin brew water balances perfectly with the acidic dark malts of a dry stout like Guinness.”
Luckily, there are many local breweries that have their own versions of stouts to serve up on St. Patrick’s Day. For a fresher, local take on a traditional Irish beer, try one of these:
Crank Arm Brewing
Low Gear Irish Dry Stout
Crank Arm Brewing will be releasing Low Gear, their own nitrogen-tapped Irish Dry Stout, at the beginning of March. “It’s very dry, creamy and low in alcohol,” assistant brewer Adam Eckhardt said. “True to traditional style, putting it on nitrogen gas gives it a cascading effect when poured and a nice creamy head.” Hours vary; 319 W. Davie St.; crankarmbrewing.com
Boylan Bridge Brewpub
Though not an Irish-style stout, Boylan Bridge has a flavorful American-style Southbound Stout of its own. You can enjoy the Raleigh skyline as you sip on the robust but easy-drinking beer that finishes with notes of coffee and chocolate. “Some folks seem to think that stout drinking should be an ordeal – you’re not supposed to like it and you’re supposed to choke it down – and we don’t follow that,” owner Andrew Leager said. “We would just as soon have our beer be normal beer. That’s the way our stout is. It has a slightly stronger flavor than some of our lighter color beers like the summer ale, but it’s a drink with manners.” 12 – 10 p.m.; 201 S. Boylan Ave.; boylanbridge.com
Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing
Natty Greene’s has its “straightforward, no-nonsense Irish-style dry stout” on tap now. Roasted malt flavors rise out of a creamy texture to create a tasty brew that’s not too sweet and not too bitter. The aromas tend toward coffee rather than chocolate. Hours vary; 505 W. Jones St.; nattygreenes.com
Raleigh Brewing Company
Miller’s Toll Imperial Oatmeal Stout
In the days when local mills produced all of the flour for a given town, they often charged a fee to turn grain into flour. This beer is a nod to Yates Pond Mill, the last – and longest standing – operational mill in Raleigh. Hours vary; 3709 Neil St.; raleighbrewingcompany.com
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
Downtown’s Flying Saucer has a seemingly endless beer selection, including a wide variety of stouts. For a beer that hasn’t traveled far, try one of their rotating stouts on tap from Lonerider or Big Boss. To get in the spirit on St. Patrick’s Day, bagpipes will be playing outside every hour, on the hour. Hours vary; 328 W. Morgan St.; beerknurd.com/stores/raleigh/
If beer is not your drink of choice, there are many other options to try on St. Patrick’s Day. Though Ó’Hannaidh points out that drink selection in an Irish pub is generally very basic – a few beers on tap, cider, a few mixed drinks – there are a handful of cocktails worthy of new traditions.
Irish coffee’s story is relatively recent. Fable has it that the drink was born in the early ’40s at Foynes, an airbase near Limerick on the western coast of Ireland. Due to poor weather, the airport became a spot of frequent layovers that turned into overnight stays for many travelers, including American politicians and celebrities.
A young Irish chef, Joe Sheridan, decided to prepare a special drink to warm up these weary passengers one blustery night in 1942. He brewed dark coffee, added Irish whiskey, brown sugar and freshly whipped cream – an unexpected delight to the tired travelers. The coffee was so successful that Sheridan made it a regular part of the menu in Foynes.
It may have remained at Foynes if travel writer Stanton Delaplane had not brought the recipe back to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe.
For a local option that holds true to the original recipe, Raleigh’s dessert, coffee, and cocktail lounge Bittersweet is worth a visit.
Bittersweet Irish Coffee, Bittersweet’s best-selling drink all year long (they sell it iced as well)
1½ ounces Jameson Irish Whiskey
½ ounce simple syrup
Counter Culture coffee
Fresh whipped Maple View Farms cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
Combine whiskey and simple syrup in a coffee mug. Stir in coffee, leaving room for whipped cream. Top with nutmeg.
“This drink really personifies everything that we are here – coffee, dessert, and cocktails,” owner and baker Kim Hammer said. “A huge part of what makes that drink so good is the Counter Culture Coffee. The sheer fact that it’s from Durham means it’s usually roasted less than 24 hours before we serve it. And then Maple View Farms cream is amazing. It makes everything it’s in better. It’s the freshness quality – you’re not going to get the same thing using Folgers coffee and a spray can of whipped cream.”
After you’ve had your fill, the happening nightlife spots on St. Patrick’s Day will likely be Raleigh’s Irish pubs like the Hibernian and Tír na nÓg, where many drink options are sure to warm up your night.