St. Patrick's Day may double as a showcase for one particular Irish beer, but U.S. craft brewers are leaving their own mark on the day.
More than 33.3 million U.S. citizens identify their heritage as Irish. That's not only about 44% of the world's 75 million-strong Irish diaspora, but it's also more than five times the 6.5 million population of Ireland itself. Also, with apologies to Arthur Guinness, his namesake beer has an audience here in the U.S., but not a large one.
Diageo, Guinness's parent company, sold just 2.3 million barrels of beer here in 2014. To put that number in perspective, that's less beer than Magic Hat, Pyramid, Portland and Genesee producer North American Breweries (2.45 million barrels) sold that year and well below the totals of both Pottsville, Pa., brewery D.G. Yuengling and Sons (2.9 million barrels) and Samuel Adams brewer Boston Brewing Company (4.1 million barrels).
There is no “official beer of St. Patrick's Day,” but the nitrogenated dry stout that Guinness popularized makes up less than 1% of the U.S. beer market and is less than a third of the beer drunk in Ireland.
Not surprisingly, Diageo's 1.1% share of the U.S. market by volume was overshadowed by the nearly 22 million barrels that made up craft beer's 11% stake in 2014. While there is a growing number of Irish craft breweries emerging from Guinness's shadow, U.S. brewers have been producing some palatable Irish styles on their own.
While we don't diminish Ireland's legacy breweries and its dozens of craft brewers, chances are much stronger that a U.S. drinker is going to try an Irish style made by a brewery that's within an average ten-mile radius of their home and that's among more than 4,200 in the country today. In fact, the following ten beers are just a small sampling of the Irish styles that U.S. brewers have to offer: