Emerald Ales

Oregon brewers roll out the barrels for St Paddy’s.

By John Chandler May 19, 2009 Published in the March 2007 issue of Portland Monthly

Kell’s Irish Style Lager makes the perfect foundation for a pour of stout.

The holiday that honors the snake-banishing patron saint of Ireland is actually more of an American wingding: St Patrick’s Day as we know it was first publicly celebrated in Boston in 1737, and it was in the U.S. that imbibing freely became part of the party. In the land of the banshee, pubs were actually closed on March 17 until the 1970s, when it was decided in the interest of chug-a-lug tourism to keep them open. Still, stateside revelers feel connected to Old World tradition when they deck themselves out in green sweatshirts and hoist pints heavenward.

Not that authenticity escapes us completely: Guinness stout, established in 1759 in County Dublin, is the brew most closely associated with St Paddy’s. But in our Northwest craft-beer community, there’s no shortage of shamrock-inspired brews available to celebrants who haven’t the stomach for stout–or whose palates have grown bored with Harp or Smithwick’s.

Newport’s Rogue Ales provides an uplifting alternative with Kells Irish Style Lager, a crackling pilsner with a dry, champagne-like finish. Designed by brewmaster John Maier–at the behest of the McAleese family, which owns the West Coast Kells restaurant chain–the lager provides a buoyant base for a topper of Guinness, resulting in the beer cocktail known as a black and tan, or a half and half.

Sip shamrock-inspired local brews.

But this formidable lager also stands up strong on its own. "It’s the number of ingredients that give it weight and complexity," says Rogue spokesman Scott Gallagher, who lists Sterling hops and Czech yeast among its selling points. Even better, it can be purchased year-round anywhere Rogue is distributed.

Should light lager and/or stout not rise to meet your taste, there’s a rosier road. Laurelwood Public House & Brewery brewmaster Chad Kennedy plans to offer a limited-edition St Paddy’s special called St Brigid’s Irish Red, named after an Irish saint who as an abbess in Kildare, legend has it, transformed bathwater into ale for her parched charges.

"Brigid’s is a malty beer, with just enough hops for balance," Kennedy says. "Ireland doesn’t really have any hop-growing regions, poor fellas, so the beers there tend to focus on malt."

Contrary to the image of the hard-drinking Irishman, Kennedy notes that blarney ales are traditionally lower in alcohol content so imbibers can "drink a lot of beer and tell a lot of stories." Brigid’s follows suit at 5.4 percent alcohol, lower than the average IPA, the beer of choice around these parts.

Good news indeed for those of us who want to regale our pub pals with epic tales of Oregon’s brewing prowess–which is second to none, laddie.

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