“Beer is just a beer, but Guinness is a steak.”
Those words, blurted out by a college-age chap from a blubbering-drunk party riding in the car behind ours on the last outbound train from London one night four years ago, has stuck with my family to this day. We'll repeat it to one another like the most sage line in Roget's.
Couldn't agree more with the Grand Duke of Pissed, but he should have added that if you crave the Kobe beef of Guinness, you really must go straight to the source in Dublin.
But what if you don't want a steak? What if you (and your arteries … and your bowels) have had it with porterhouses night after night? For me, two Guinness stouts in one sitting is my max (and if they're chasing Jameson shots, look out!).
My go-to when I'm in the mood for Irish, but not a steak, is a Smithwick's (pronounced smitticks) ale, which began being brewed in Kilkenny's St. Francis Abbey Brewery in 1710, making it Ireland's oldest operating brewery. The traditional red ale was quickly followed by a pale ale–in 2011.
Don't cry for Guinness if you order either; Smithwick's has been part of that former competitor's fold since 1965, and both were eventually swallowed up by London-based liquor giant Diageo, founded in 1997.
What I like about Smithwick's is it has that bold beginning malty coffee jolt you associate more strongly with Guinness but then quickly settles into more complex flavors in the middle before gently tailing off into the kind of refreshing finish a domestic lager provides on a hot summer day.
It's like the best of all beer worlds in a pint, and you can down more than two (if you are into that sort of thing) without feeling as if you've torn through twin T-bones.
I am also convinced Smithwick's travels better than Guinness. It's not going to get any better than having either on the Emerald Isle. Like a heroin addict, here in the States you're forever chasing that first Guinness high from an Irish or English pub. Guinness is also brewed in the U.K., but a Brit over there swore to me that the English pubs closest to Ireland (think Liverpool) serve the best Guinness that side of the Irish Sea.
I didn't ask him to share his views about Smithwick's but whether in a bottle purchased at Hi-Time in Costa Mesa or on draft at that town's Durty Nelly's or Muldoon's in Newport Beach, it's always delivered for me like a gabby mick cabbie.
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