There's nothing like a Guinness. And on St. Patrick's Day, there's really nothing like a Guinness, right?
Image courtesy of Wikimedia and PDPhoto.org
Completely right, unless it's an O'Hara's, or a Murphy's.
Guinness is a stout -- a dark beer with a toasty taste and relatively low alcohol content. In Ireland, it's traditionally served nitrogenated, which, combined with a bartender who knows how to pour it, gives it the creamy, just-right head on top. (Beer is also traditionally served warm in Ireland, but that's another story.)
You can order it alone, or in one of the many combination drinks that are in some cases more common in the U.S. than they are in Ireland. The most typical are the Black and Tan and the half and half. The latter is a mix of Guinness (or stout of your choice) and a pale ale, usually Bass. A half and half (my favorite) replaces the pale ale with a lager, usually Harp. As for the more exotic varieties, the Priest Collar (Snakebite in the Midwest) and Black Velvet combine Guinness and Strongbow Cider, in different layers and combinations.
Drinking Made Easy has the whole list. Black and Trash? (Guinness and Budweiser?) Dark Side of the Moon? (Guinness and Blue Moon?) Order with care, is all I'm saying, and don't say I didn't warn you, because I just did.
Besides a perfectly enjoyable beer option, stout is a great ingredient for cooking and baking as well. This year, I plan to tackle a cake (or the dreaded trendy cupcake, yes) for anyone who has the Irish luck to cross my path. Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey and Baileys from Instructables sound quite nice. They tweaked the name from the less pleasant "Irish Car Bomb" cupcakes, named after the Guinness/Bailey's/Jameson shot of the same name. PinchMySalt has Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, and Foodess had this pretty post including a recipe for Spiced Guinness Cupcakes.
DCBeer.com ran a guest post by Liz at YarnGeek, featuring her recipe for Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout Cupcakes. It's a great beer, and I'm sure the cakes will be delicious too. The Urban Baker posted Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream (yes, please) and SeriousEats featured Cakespy's Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Filling, and the Culinary Chronicles version features Irish Cream Buttercream.
Nigella Lawson shared some baking tips for St. Patrick's Day last year. Her Guinness Cake is beautiful, and may be the one I try to make.
If you're looking for savory as well as sweet, Endless Simmer has a collection of 100 recipes with Guinness as an ingredient. Guinness Burgers from the OuiChefNetwork sound great, and Guinness-Battered Cod from Closet Cooking and Guinness and Apple Roast Beef from Chomping the Big Apple are others that jumped out at me.
Don't feel like baking? Slashfood has a selection of Irish cupcakes from bakeries across the country. If you're after them in your town, I'm guessing this is your week. I did a search for "Irish cupcakes" in D.C. on Yelp and got a selection of the usual suspects, who are likely all tossing some Guinness, Bailey's, and/or Jameson Whiskey into the batter this week. (Note: green food coloring does not have the same effect.)
And if you're out and about on St. Patrick's and just want to find a Guinness, period? The Guinness Pub Finder app is your friend.
Slainte -- that's your Irish "Cheers" -- and yes, it is a day where it's fine, and lots of fun, to identify strongly and join in the fun with those of us with some blarney in our family trees. No one will notice, and no one will care, especially if you're bringing the chocolate whiskey Bailey's stout cupcakes.