Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Eve: The Anticipation-Equivalent of Christmas Eve to Charlatans and Drunken Buffoons aplenty (or "What to Drink on March 17")

an excellent example of charlatans and/or drunken buffoons in their natural habitat

As soon as March 1st rolls up on my "Best of the Thundercats 16 month calendar", I become obsessed with Irish music. Not just the traditional pub stuff- featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle, fife- but the incredible rock-influenced stuff, too: Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Waterboys, and downright punk rock like the Dropkick Murphys. Maybe it's the red beard. The pale complexion that puts a glass of Vinho Verde (more on that later) to shame? Perhaps the (very Irish) notion that strong drink, hearty food, good music, storytelling, and merrymaking are quite near the apex of existence. Whatever the case come March, I'm just shot out of a bright green cannon with shamrock-shaped sparkles and a smoke cloud that smells faintly of cut potatoes and leprechaun musk.

Therefore, while I'm sure St. Paddy's has gone the way of Cinco de Mayo (which has nothing to do with Mexican Independence), it's also still an excellent excuse to celebrate. One of the "greatest" traditions in the States is the consumption of "green beer". Nothing gets my taste buds more horny than the thought of flavorless, low-calorie lager infused with food coloring.*

*denotes sarcasm

Rather than bow to the sour and insipid regurgitation of a dirty tap, celebrate with something slightly more traditional:

Stout: a term used in England and Ireland to denote "strong" beer as far back as the 17th century, stout has come to generally mean a dark beer whose color is derived from the use of dark roasted malt in the brewing process. While there are Oatmeal Stouts, Imperial Stouts, Chocolate Stouts, Coffee Stouts, Milk Stouts, and even Oyster Stouts (I'm not ready for that one yet), the Dry Irish Stout is what many hoist around the world on St. Patrick's Day. The most popular example is- of course- Guinness, but Murphy's and Beamish also make good examples of Irish Stout. Many (especially the neon-green beer drinking crowd) are put off by the "heaviness" of a stout, and- yes- the name suggests as such. However, 12 ounces of Guinness Draught (the stuff you get out the tap or in the cans with the weird device in them) only have 4.0% alcohol by volume, 125 calories, and 10 carbs. Compare to your green Bud Light, which has 4.2% ABV, 95 calories, and 6.6 carbs (source: realbeer.com). You could make up the difference with just one surly bar fight flurry of punches, and you'd have your wits about you by .2% alcohol, all while drinking something that has taste and pairs a hell of a lot better with your lamb stew or (not surprisingly) beef n' Guinness pie.

Irish Whiskey: Somewhere along the line, the term whiskey came out of the old Gaelic phrase "uisce beatha", which translates as "water of life". So, next time Mom is giving you grief about how drinking is bad for you, simply explain that a bunch of old dead people referred to it as a necessity for living. "Then why are they dead?" Mom says. Dang, she always wins. Anyway, Irish Whiskey is an incredibly smooth and clean-drinking whiskey (or "whisky", but not spelled that way in Ireland), due much to triple-distillation. Not as smoky as Scotch; not as sweet as Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey, but really darn good, and life-giving (disclaimer: Suburban Wino Industries makes no claims to be an authority on human health). Solid, easy-to-find examples include Bushmills, Jameson, and Tullamore Dew. The single-malt stuff is a little more elusive, but like scotch, it's more complex, and may actually be the "water of life".

Wine: Yes, I can already hear Kyle Broflovski's mother screaming, "what, WHAT, WHAAAAAAAT?!!" Hang on. Bear with me. You can drink wine on St. Paddy's, and this especially works if you're hung up on the whole "green" thing.

Option 1: As mentioned earlier, Vinho Verde is a Portuguese still white wine that literally translates to "green wine". While the name alludes to the wine's freshness and youth (as opposed to the color, which is almost clear in many cases), hey, this is a wine blog, so I had to take a crack at it.

Option 2: Perhaps more half-baked than the Option 1 argument, but here it goes anyway. Look for organic wines, organically-farmed wines, or wines from sustainable or biodynamic vineyards (which don't necessarily qualify as "certified organic", but that's another post). Anyhoo, the overused buzzword for good-for-the-environment is "green", so...well, there you go. And while these wines aren't required to say anything on the label, many probably do, as it is fashionable marketing these days. No longer total crap, there are many quality producers these days. Ask your local trusty wine shop for recommendations, and remind them that if you're making a sacrifice for the environment, then you don't need the dusty organic wine that they brought in on a whim and now can't sell. Another option is to check out different wineries' websites. They'll be preaching all this stuff if they want to sell more.

So, surely you're more enlightened and ready to take your March 17th irresponsibility to new heights (dare I say, responsible irresponsibility if going the sustainable/organic/biodynamic route). As for the bright green beer? The only things that should be that color are lime jello and antifreeze, and neither are safe for consumption.


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