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Top 5 Irish beers for St. Patrick's Day

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Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with an authentic Irish beer. (Gayot)

Whether you’re celebrating at the pub or over a heaping plate of corned beef and cabbage, no St. Patrick’s Day party is complete without a pint or two of Irish brew. Take a look at Gayot’s list of favorites to find hearty stouts and brisk ales from across the Emerald Isle. From household names such as Guinness to fresh-faced up-and-comers offering new approaches and unusual ingredients, Ireland’s brewing scene runs deep.

So what’s a thirsty aficionado to do? We suggest trying them all—in the name of research, of course.

1. Guinness Draught

The milkshake of beers, this "meal in a bottle" has that roasted malt flavor and hint of chocolate we've come to expect from most full-bodied beers. A rich and creamy Irish favorite, Guinness Draught is best straight out of the bottle or, if it's canned, from a tulip-shaped pint glass. Ask your bartender for a "perfect pint," an optimal pouring method which, according to the company, should take 119.53 seconds. Can't wait that long? Just think of how happy you'll be when that fluffy white cloud forms at the top of your glass.

2. Murphy’s Irish Stout

The lightest and sweetest of Ireland's Big Three (the other two being Guinness and Beamish), Murphy's Irish Stout is the "nice guy" of the group. But don't be deceived — that just means you can drink more of them. Think chocolate milk topped with a double shot of espresso and finished with a one-inch thick head of caramel-infused creamy goodness. Since Heineken acquired the company in 1983, Murphy's has become one of the fastest growing stout brands in the world. Have a Guinness for dinner, but save this one for dessert.

3. Smithwick’s Irish Ale

While Ireland is known in America for its hearty stouts, the country also has a long history of brewing crisp red ales. Smithwick’s has been crafting its own rendition since 1710, although the original brewery dates back as far as the 14th century. Built on the grounds of a former Franciscan abbey, the site was once home to a group of beer-brewing monks. Today, Smithwick's has grown to become the top ale producer in Ireland. This distinctive ale is characterized by caramel maltiness and a hint of hops.

4. Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale

First introduced as a stronger version of Smithwick's, Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale is beloved on the Emerald Isle for its smooth finish and frothy, Guinness-like head. Until recently, Dubliner Pub in Washington, D.C. was the only place in the United States that carried the beer, although it has since become widely available. The amber brew is less hoppy than most Irish red ales, and has the rich aroma and flavor of toasted malt. It's at once sweet and creamy, offset by some bitterness, and is available in draught (nitrogen-infused) and canned forms.

5. Porterhouse Brewing Co. Oyster Stout

Established in 1996, Porterhouse Brewing Company has quickly grown to become Ireland's largest independent brewery. Once housed in a single Dublin pub, the company now operates bars as far afield as New York and London. Porterhouse makes a varied range of stouts, ales, lagers and beyond, including its popular oyster stout. The name is not a misnomer — Porterhouse actually shucks fresh oysters into the conditioning tank. The resulting brew offers a hint of shellfish, along with the characteristic rounded malt flavors, creamy mouthfeel and smooth finish of a stout.

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