While St. Patrick's Day has become for too many and excuse to drink - no matter their heritage - it is undeniable that imbibing is part of the Irish culture, much the same as a pint of ale is synonymous with a British pub or a dram of Scotch in the highlands.
But just because the holiday as celebrated in the states has become associated with copious and conspicuous drinking doesn't mean you should just chase whatever swill, green-tinted or otherwise, that comes your way.
Rather, think of the holiday as a chance to bone up on local and international treasures of the beer world. Drink quality, not quantity.
With this in mind, here are seventeen beers to celebrate with Thursday (as well as a friendly reminder from the Dormont-Brookline Patch to always drink responsibly):
Start things off right with a few genuine Irish pints: Guinness is the standard - deep, heavy, a little smokey, and one of the most popular stouts in the world, it can be found in various forms in most bars and primarily in draft in pubs and Irish-themed establishments.
Murphy's and Beamish stouts are also delicious, but harder to find stateside. For something lighter, look for the crisp and refreshing Harp in import-friendly bars and beer distributors, or go for the middle ground in an Irish red ale, especially the Kilkenny-originated Smithwick's, a hoppy ruby-red ale with a thin head. Kilkenny Cream Ale is from the same brewery as Smithwick's, but is harder to find. However, it's worth the effort to look for it, especially if you're a fan of Guinness.
Want to use your drinking to support some local businesses? Plan a day or so in advance and head out to the East End Brewing Company for a growler or two of the Black Strap Stout, brew that is a little chocolate, a little coffee, and a lot of flavor. Go local and classy with some bottles from Church Brew Works, including the mighty ThunderHop I.P.A. Described by the brewery as "big and malty with some caramel sweetness" this beer is on the bitter-side, but not without flavorful balance. The Millennium Trippel is the antithesis of the Thunderhop, all sweet and bubbly and perfect for those not in love with darker brews.
And yes, don't forget the Iron City Beer, especially if you're buying for die-hard Pittsburghers. Want a little more flavor? Pick up the brewing company's Augustiner, an affordable and flavorful lager.
Looking beyond Pittsburgh, there's dozens of Pennsylvania-based breweries to give some love to this Thursday. Appalachian Brewing Company, based in Harrisburg, has their own Irish red ale made especially for March, Celtic Knot, and as far as American variations on Irish red ale, it's pretty terrific. Appalachian also produces the similarly great Susquehanna Stout and the Jolly Scot Scottish Ale, a sweet, smooth ale that goes down easy ... maybe too easy, if you're planning on a night of drinking.
Hopefully you won't have reached your limit before coming by a bottle of the excellent (and very potent) Victory Brewing Company Storm King Imperial Stout. At 9.1% ABV, this is a thick brew layered with flavor, perfect for those looking to get the most out of one or two beers. Victory also puts out the Donnybrook Stout, a beer whose deep color defies its light, smooth taste.
Finally, if you're determined to get the most out of your dollar, aim for locals that are inexpensive without sacrificing flavor. Straub, with its holiday-ready green bottle, is a local favorite and served in nearly all city bars. Of course, you could go for the beer many consider to be THE Pennsylvanian beer, Yuengling Traditional Lager, one of the best beers for a mixed group of drinkers, as it is light enough for those who prefer their beer less bitter, but full-body enough for most serious beer drinkers (at least as a follow up to heavier drafts).
For six-packs, twelve-packs, and cases of these beers and more, pay a visit to , , , Vasta, or Beer 4 Less. If you're planning on a St. Patrick's night out and about, call ahead to your favorite bars to find out what's on tap special for the holiday.
Check out food writer Emily Fear's food blog, Forked!