Five Local Craft Beers to Drink on St. Paddy’s Day

Yes, Guinness is good. But this holiday, seek out smooth-drinking styles that are smoky, fruity, and even a bit briny.


Photo via Harpoon

It might sound like sacrilege, but there are better beer options than Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. And don’t even get me started on green beer.

Colorfully referred to as “black gold,” “mother’s milk,” and “the perfect pint,” Arthur Guinness’ iconic, creamy libation has been a magnificent introduction into the world of serious, well-crafted beer for over two centuries. But that doesn’t mean that the stout, brewed since the 18th century, is the end-all for beer lovers celebrating their Irish heritage.

On this booziest of holidays (second only the Fourth of July in terms of beer consumption), we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite chocolatey, roasty, even briny examples that’ll make this St. Paddy’s Day one to remember.

1. Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger
Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%

Named after the Hendler brothers’ two brewery cats—yes, that would be “Smoke” and “Dagger”—brewmaster Jack describes this black lager as a cross between a schwarzbier and smoked porter. Made with a hefty dose of chocolate malt as well as beechwood smoked malt, this toasty, earthy brew has a pungent nose more akin to a oatmeal stout, but with a clean, dry finish that makes it more sessionable than most ales. A GABF winner in 2012, this year-round offering has aromas of coffee, wood smoke, and appropriately enough, Boston brown bread.

2. Harpoon Boston Irish Stout
Alcohol by Volume: 4.3%

If you’re looking for a perfect alternative to Guinness, look no further than Harpoon’s Boston Irish Stout. This draft-only offering, brewed with six different malts and a dose of Willamette hops, has a rich, creamy texture and notes of bitter dark chocolate and molasses. The Waterfront destination admits to difficulties with the beer’s development in 2013, mostly due to the tricky nitrogenating process. But after a couple years of experimentation, it looks like they finally have it down. You can currently find this seasonal offering at State Park, Pastoral, and B&G Oysters, but I always think it tastes best right at the source.

3. Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom
Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

Dan Kleban’s vanilla-tinged American stout might be a bit too boozy to imbibe all day, but with its velvety texture and intense aromas of espresso, toast, and chocolate, it’ll certainly upgrade your typical St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl. Named after Kleban’s eccentric southern uncle, who made him and his brother David collect discarded beer cans shucked along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mean Old Tom gets a boost of complexity from an addition of Magnum and Centennial hops, six types of malt, as well as whole vanilla beans.

4. Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout
Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%

Like ‘Gansett’s insanely popular summer shandy brewed with Del’s Lemonade and the new H.P. Lovecraft line of ales, a collaboration with Rhode Island’s Revival Brewing, its Autocrat Coffee milk stout is proving that brewmaster Sean Larkin has this New England institution moving in exciting, and quite frankly unexpected, new directions. A part of Larkin’s “Hi Neighbor Mash-Up” series of locally inspired beers, the Autocrat milk stout is brewed with roasted barley, chocolate malt, crystal malt, milk sugar, and of course, Autocrat Coffee Syrup, for an opaque brew loaded with mocha, toffee, and dried fruit aromas. This limited-edition offering is worth loading up on now, before it disappears from shelves sometime this spring.

5. Foolproof Shuckolate
Alcohol by Volume: 6%

Foolproof president and founder Nick Garrison says he’s been “overwhelmed” by the response to his new Shuckolate, brewed with cocoa powder and cocoa nibs from Rhode Island’s Garrison Confections, as well as 300 whole oysters from Walrus and Carpenter Oysters of Charlestown, RI. A tiny, 30-barrel batch offering that was released on Valentine’s Day, you can still find random bottles hidden away at better beer stores like Craft Beer Cellars in Belmont. But if you strike out this year, certainly make it a priority next winter as this smoky, singular beer, chock full of minerality and salinity, is a perfect foil for fish and chips and oysters on the half shell.