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TheStreet Open House

8 Great Irish Beers That Aren't Stouts

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Around this time of year, every pub on the planet and the folks at Diageo (DEO) who make Guinness out to be Liquid Ireland would have you believe that the Irish created dry stout, dropped the mic and walked off the world beer stage.

Like the local American Legion Hall that slaps a shamrock on the door and considers itself "Irish" for the day, equating stout with St. Patrick's Day misses the mark a little bit. We've said it before and we'll say it again: There is no "official beer of St. Patrick's Day." It's a religious holiday that has no more traditional ties to beer than Hanukkah or Halloween do.

Even if St. Patrick's Day did have an official beer, Guinness wouldn't be it these days. As much as beer drinkers may love what the nitrogenated dry stout has done for Irish-style pubs and low-alcohol drinking sessions, it makes up less than 1% of the U.S. beer market and is less than a third of the beer drunk in Ireland. Ask folks at a pub in Galway what they'll have and nearly two times out of three they'll answer with Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD) Budweiser, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Heineken or some other light lager.

Also, while we're very sure Guinness stout is Irish, we're not so sure it's actually stout. Arthur Guinness' original recipe for Guinness Stout was originally his Extra Superior Porter. True porters didn't return until the initial American craft beer boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s. To this day, judges at beer competitions insist stouts are darker, use roasted barley and use less water than porters. Unfortunately, even brewers and beer experts don't believe there's much separating porters and stouts beyond what a brewer decides to call them.

It helps to keep making a low-alcohol product that won't have you stumbling out the door after long sessions at the pub. But at the very least, it should have something in its makeup, character or even heritage that would make it at home in an Irish pub. To make sure Ireland's brewing heritage isn't shortchanged and to give pubgoers an alternative to a plastic cup of hastily poured stout this St. Patrick's Day, we've come up with eight beers that are every bit as Irish as Guinness, but aren't just yet another frothy pint of stout:

8. O'Hara's Irish Wheat
"Wait, isn't wheat beer Belgian?" Stick a County Cork in it and hear us out. This particular wheat, sometimes known as Curim Gold, has Irish Celtic roots and spurns the citrus and coriander flavor of typical witbiers for a more Teutonic blend of plum, peach and banana. At a scant 4.3% alcohol by volume, it's just as mild as stout while more refreshing and less roasty and bitter.

A product of Carlow Brewing, an Irish craft brewer founded in 1996, O'Hara's experienced growth similar to most American craft brews. While only a modest presence in Ireland for the first years of its existence, O'Hara's built its footprint through lots of do-it-yourself promotion, word of mouth and exports. This wheat beer and other brews on Carlow's roster delve deeper into traditional Irish styles and remind folks that the palates of the nation's brewers were far broader than blackened pints would have you believe.

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