What can we look forward to in March this year? Well, let’s see, there is International Women’s Day on 8 March; setting the clocks forward for Daylight Savings time on 12 March; St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March; the Full Moon on 25 March. So what kinds of alcoholic beverages can we celebrate with as we start to think about Spring? How about the Irish theme? You could enjoy a nice Guinness draught stout coming in at 4.2%abv with a hearty Irish stew as the weather is still cold enough and they make a great match. This is a go-to Irish traditional meal dating back centuries known for its distinct and velvety character; mahogany brown in colour with a creamy white head and loaded with aromas of coffee, toasted malt and hops. Full and bold on the palate with a creamy texture and the same rich flavours, a delicate touch of bitterness adds a pleasing balance to the finish. Or you could try one of my favourites, Kilkenny Traditional Cream Ale with a bright amber colour; soft grain and malt aromas; medium-body; rich mouth-coating malt flavour and touch of bitter hops on the finish; coming in at 4.3%abv. For red ale fans there is Smithwick’s Ale brewed since 1710 coming in at 4.5%abv with sweet/malty, caramel flavours, along with palate refreshing carbonation and light bitter hops tones on the finish. Perfect with bbq, spicy foods or pub fare; the well-seasoned, bold, smoky flavours of these dishes call for the contrasting malty tones and palate-cleansing ability of this beer.
You could enjoy an Irish whiskey by the two major distillers – Jameson and Bushmills. Unlike Scottish single malt whisky (note the Scottish spelling vs ‘whiskey’ in Ireland), which are normally double distilled, the Irish triple distill theirs which some say makes it smoother and generally more approachable – you be the judge. The Irish and the Scots always have to be different. If St Patrick ever had a tipple though, I venture to say that it would be a Jameson from Southern Ireland! A smooth blend of pot still and fine grain whiskeys; bright, pale amber with subtle aromas of white flower, nectarine, ripe pear and clove; mellow and approachable on the palate, with spicy vanilla, wildflower honey and ginger flavours. I prefer this regular version on the rocks or after a special dinner in an Irish coffee. Jameson is now distilled at the New Midleton Distillery in County Cork. It is by far the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world; in 2019, annual sales passed 8 million cases. John Jameson, after whom the distillery was named, was actually a Scottish legal clerk. He was born in Alloa in 1740 and started the distillery in Dublin in 1780. I just had to say this because my dad was born in Alloa where Maclays IPA beer is still brewed and available all over the world! It has a comparatively low price for a very good IPA! I have generations of Irish ancestors too on my grandmother’s side who married the Scottish marine engineer. But that’s another story.
Well, in fairness, we cannot leave out Northern Ireland where the Old Bushmills Distillery is, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The company that originally built the distillery was formed in 1784, although the date 1608 is printed on the label of the brand – referring to an earlier date when a royal license was granted to a local landowner to distill whiskey in the area. I wonder if this has anything to do with the spirit of Irish competition where Jameson started 4 years earlier in the south?
Well, enjoy St Paddy’s Day and please, don’t drink adulterated green beer; wear the green Derby hat instead!
I also reviewed a number of LCBO Vintage release wines and I don’t know about you, but I am hard pressed to find decent wines in the $10 to $17 range anymore. Wines that not that long ago were in that range have been hiked to over $20, which I personally refuse to pay for our regular house wine enjoyment. I will splurge on special occasions for several wines I love and when company visits. I will mention one wine from a quality producer (Boekenhoutskloof) that is always consistent, Porcupine Ridge in Swartland, South Africa. Their Syrah, coming in at 14.5%abv is on special, hopefully still when you read this, at $13.95 (regularly $16.95). Even at regular price it represents good value in a red wine which matches grilled meats, from hamburgers to thick juicy steaks, and is a serious, dark and smoky Syrah, with black olive, black pepper, floral and black plum notes.
Cheers, and feel free to drop me a line if you have a question or want a recommendation on what beverage to have with a particular meal you will be preparing. With Covid the last couple of years, I have missed holding sociable gatherings on food and wines/beers/spirits matchings!