Answer by Domhnall O'Huigin:
It rather depends: Are you looking for a decent Irish-made or associated drink for the day to channel the spirit of St. Patrick? Or simply looking for something 'Irish' less alcoholic than whiskey?
All these answers are good answers and decent brews whose origin was in Ireland (albeit they are owned by Diageo/InBev/other super-multinationals now). If you want to sample something St. Patrick might have drank on special occasions then it would be mead, made from fermented honey and assorted grains and basically kind of a 'honey beer.' Granted, there is no evidence St. Patrick was an imbiber but none that he was not either and this was certainly a prevalent drink at the time (he is thought to have lived in the second half of the 5th century A.D.).
Of course, you could combine the [relatively] modern with the ancient and theological and try Buckfast tonic wine, inordinately popular in Ireland despite its English origins. (I am cheating somewhat in the context of the specific question, but you may take it as read this is drank in great quantities in Ireland every March 17th so a sort of honorary citizenship is in play).
I would not however; it is an acquired taste (like cough mixture) and its potent mix of alcohol and caffeine lead to unpredictable effects from a relatively small intake. It may be less alcoholic than straight whiskey but anecdotal evidence suggests it punches above its weight... Your correspondent can attest first hand to this but we no longer talk about The Unpleasantness.
In modern Ireland, cider ['hard cider' in the U.S.] is one of the most popular drinks but lacks the advantage of having a head so there is nothing for your skilled bartender to pour a shamrock shape onto. Most varieties are largely clear though so might be a good choice to add green food coloring to.
So, assuming you are looking for a straight answer I would go with the following:
- A stout (like Guinness or Murphys).
- An ale (like Smithwicks or a creamy ale with a head like Kilkenny)
- A hard cider (the hipster version -- 'oh they drink way more of this in Dublin than Guinness you know...')
- Mead (the uber obscure option, I'd say your chances of finding this on sale in a bar are zero, maybe in a liquor store that caters for minority tastes)
- Buckfast (you've got your bail bondsman on speed dial right?)
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