Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast Of Saint Patrick as it was once known, was originally a religious celebration commemorating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. The holiday is named after the most commonly acknowledged patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, on the day he was to have died back in the mid 400’s. It’s more recently and more commonly celebrated around the world as a cultural holiday, paying homage to Ireland by those of Irish heritage like myself and those who wish to join us in the celebration.
In Canada, its celebration can be traced back to the mid 1700’s as we have a deep Irish heritage within our early history that lives on proudly today. It’s a day of all things green, including the beer which is often coloured green and you’ll likely see more Guinness consumption on this single day than any other week of the year, at least by my estimates anyway. In this article, I have planned out an entire day’s worth of Irish inspired meals paired with beers – mostly stouts – that are worthy of a Feast that pays homage to Saint Patrick and of course to Ireland itself. I hope you get a chance to try some of them, or challenge yourself to try them all throughout the day or a weekend.
Pairing #1 – Traditional Irish Breakfast with a Canadian Made Dry Irish Stout
There are certainly lots of different ways to put together a traditional Irish breakfast, however there are a couple essentials you’ll needed in order make it stand out as Irish. The most important thing is to have some authentic Irish bacon, which is cured pork back meat that is very similar to Canadian back bacon. Secondly, you need to have at least one pudding, be it black or white, for this meal to be authentic enough. I was only able to obtain a black Irish pudding, which is a type blood sausage made with pork blood, oats, meat and spices. Other common parts of an authentic Irish breakfast include baked beans and brown toast, however I substituted some potato cakes in there and of course fried up some eggs to make a seriously hearty meal out of it.
For this pairing I poured a Cobblestone Stout on Nitrogen from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, which is a 4.2% alcohol by volume smooth, creamy, and smoky stout that I like to refer to as upgraded Guinness. Because of the low alcohol volume, this sessionable beer makes for a good breakfast stout as it won’t knock you off your feet for the day. It also pairs nicely with the black pudding and bacon parts of the meal without overpowering the rest of the breakfast. I found the sweet tangy bacon was extra savory when paired with the beer as it highlighted the smoke and brought out the toasted oats in the black pudding. The beer got creamier and the smoky notes were enhanced, which complemented the meal perfectly while still allowing other flavours to stand out. As an alternate pairing, a Coffee Porter or even an Amber Lager would go well with this type of breakfast, look for a beer that won’t fill you up or knock you out.
Pairing #2 – Mid Morning Snack of an Irish Soda Bread “Blarney Scone” and an Imperial Coffee Stout
Traditionally, Irish soda bread is quick bread made with only the following four ingredients: flour, salt, buttermilk and baking soda, which is then formed into a round ball, scored with a cross and baked for about 45 minutes. It was traditionally a home baked bread that used soft wheat that could grow well in
Ireland, but didn’t respond very well to yeast as a leavening agent, hence the use of baking soda instead. For this pairing, I decided to pick up a hybrid soda bread aptly named “Blarney Scone” since it’s a soda bread made with raisins and caraway seeds more in the manner of a traditional scone, which I heated up and topped with authentic Kerrygold Irish butter.
To accompany this hybrid soda bread, I chose the best Imperial Coffee Stout in Canada called Péché Mortel which is produced by Dieu Du Ciel in Montreal, Quebec at a strength of 9.5% alcohol by volume. The intention was to mimic a coffee and scone pairing that is quite common here in Canadian coffee shops, but with some Irish flair. The beer offers huge coffee notes, lots of roasty espresso, toasted grains, with a creamy mouth feel and a sooty finish, while the scone was slightly dry with malty raisins, caraway seeds and a massive creamy butter flavour. Together, the beer highlighted the toffee flavours in the raisins and the herbal caraway seeds while the food brought out some black licorice notes in the beer that weren’t there before. The creamy butter uncovered some hidden chocolate flavours in the beer and some citrus components of the coffee infusion were made apparent as well, likely highlighted by the salt in the butter. Other beer styles to try here would be an English Bitter which has lots of toffee notes or an Alt Bier which usually has both toffee and caramel flavours.
Pairing #3 – Lunch Consisting of an Irish Beer Infused Meat Patsy and a Rye Pale Ale
Pasties are a form of pastry or battered meat patty common in Northern Ireland which comes in many different forms with a variety of fillings, generally consisting of meat and gravy. The ones I chose were made with beef and were infused with Irish Kilkenny and Guinness beers to make them extra scrumptious, made exclusively for a local UK import store called the Celtic Treasure Chest which is a plae I plan to visit more often.
To enhance the savory meat in the patsie, I chose a Rye Pale Ale called Fire in the Rye by Double Trouble Brewing in Guelph, Ontario which is a 6.1% alcohol by volume beer made with a combination of rye and barley malts. The beer has sweet caramel and toffee flavours, rye doughy bread malts and hints of pine and floral herbs, while the patsies were a buttery pastry heaven accompanied by flavorful meaty beefsteak. Put together, the toffee and rye malts in the beer took the meat in the pie to a whole new level of palatability, hitting that perfect sweet and savory balance quite nicely while the herbs and floral notes finished it off magnificently. In the beer, the rye and toffee were heightened while some honey slipped in and the caramels went off the charts. Some different styles that would pair well with a pastie include spring seasonal IPA’s which tend to have more biscuit malts or an Irish Red Ale which would pair up nicely with the meat.
Pairing #4 – Mid Afternoon Snack of a Beer and an Irish Porter Infused Cheddar
Beer and cheese make the simplest and best pairings as they both farmhouse foods that accent each other perfectly if you pair them right, without a lot of effort or preparation to put them together. They make such a good pairing that you can find beer infused cheeses quite easily now in most decent deli sections. This particular pairing features an Irish Cheddar that has been layered and infused with Guinness Porter and imported directly from Ireland into Canada.
As a great pairing for this amazing cheese, I chose an Oat Porter from Four Winds Brewing in British Columbia, from a growler I filled specifically for this article. The beer features some nice toasted oats, chocolate flavours and some smoke with lingering cocoa and coffee notes on the aftertaste. The cheese features an intensely sharp cheddar presence with some chocolate and earthy overtones and some smoke as well. Once these two got together, the beer mellows a bit with the exception of the smoke which intensifies into a meaty smoked bacon like flavour, while the cheese explodes into a sharp cheddar savory overload of goodness. It also gets meatier, maltier and creamier which is hard to believe, but true – I pleasantly swore out loud a few times when pairing these two with each other. You could try other beer varieties such as Amber Ale or an English Brown, but I recommend sticking with a porter or oatmeal stout.
Pairing #5 – Comfort Food Dinner of Irish Bangers and Mash with Potato Stout and Beer Gravy
No Irish food and beer pairing would be complete without some sort of potato based dish. In this case it’s bangers and mash, which is a common pub food that makes a heck of a simple yet tasty comfort food to enjoy at home on a cold night or out in a bar. For this recipe, I used traditional Irish Bangers, mashed potatoes and I replaced half of the liquid in the gravy recipe with beer to add even more flavour to the dish.
To go with this meal, the beer in this pairing is a 4.8% alcohol by volume Dry Irish Potato Stout called Shamrocker, made by British Columbia brewer Granville Island Brewery. It is made with a mixture of barley malt, specialty malts and of course potatoes in order to create a really dry acidic finish that is quite pleasing and unique. The beer features notes of dark roasted coffee, soot, potato and as previously mentioned it finishes very, very dry. For the bangers and mash I noted that it was a meaty, creamy potato and gravy mash up of awesomeness that was pretty darn good on its own. As far as the pairing goes, the mashed potatoes assumed a creamier texture while the caramelized edges of the sausage were more concentrated and flavourful than usual. The stout had heightened coffee and potato notes, while it added lots of smoky malts to the gravy which made the entire meal worthy of its reputation. To mix it up, you could try a Scotch Ale or a Robust Porter as an alternate pairing for this entre.
Pairing #6 – Stout Cupcakes and Irish Cream Beer Make An Awesome Dessert
Stouts make fantastic additions to chocolate cakes as the roasted malts and smoky flavours already pair very nicely with cocoa and there are lots of different recipes out there to try. Similarly, you can add Irish Cream to any icing recipe, replacing some or all of the liquid with the booze in order to give a boozy whisky kick to your cake or cupcakes, especially helpful if they are to be served to adults. I chose to complement these flavours with a special beer made in British Columbia that is infused with Irish Cream which I thought would make a perfect pairing for with some Irish Cream Iced Stout Cupcakes.
The chosen beer was a Chilliwack, British Columbia brewed 7.5% alcohol by volume Stout called Screaming Banshee which is made by Old Yale Brewing. This brewery won the 2014 Canadian Beer of the Year Award at the Canadian Brewing Awards with their Sasquatch Stout, and this special beer is basically that award winning stout with Irish Cream added for extra zing. It has a nice creamy flavour
with roasted grains, minor whiskey notes and profound chocolate highlights throughout, while the cupcakes also tasted like toasty chocolate with super butter creamy icing with a touch of booze. When paired with the cupcakes, the beer was almost like a milkshake or milk stout with a big creamy chocolate flavour and almost no roasted grains. For the cupcakes, the butter cream in the cupcake was simply outstanding and the Irish cream in both the beer and food stood out a more, giving a little extra kick to this dessert. Other beers to try here would be a Cream Ale or possibly a Barleywine.
I hope you have a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day and enjoy many craft beers that are hopefully paired with some fantastic Irish Cuisine.