There’s a lot more to St. Patrick’s Day than copious drinking and Kelly green. In Ireland, celebrations include public parades and festivals, céilithe (traditional Gaelic social events characterized by a lot of traditional dancing and folk music) and perhaps some shamrocks. There may also be a tad bit of imbibing, since the Lenten restrictions on eating and alcohol are lifted in commemoration of the national patron saint’s death day.
All right, we’ll admit it; a lot of St. Patrick’s Day revelry boils down to the booze. One of the most well loved representations of Irish culture worldwide (among those of legal drinking age, at least) is the nation’s famous stout. Come March 17, pass by any bar and you’ll see beer lovers swigging cool pints of the coffee-colored beverage, still others will have mixed it with Bass pale ale to create a smooth “Black and Tan,” or, as the Irish would call it, a “Half and Half.” The most enthusiastic of the bunch will be gulping down a mixture of Guinness, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson, otherwise known as the notorious yet delicious “Irish car bomb.” Tasty and festive though they may be, these are not exactly treats you can share with your clover-clad kiddos.
However, if you’ve only been taking Guinness in its liquid form, you’ve been seriously missing out. Cooking with beer, and stout in particular, adds rich, earthy flavor to soups and stews. In recipes that call for wine, sub out the vino for beer and you’ll get a more toasty, malty result. Guinness is great for enriching the taste of desserts thanks to its distinct coffee and chocolate notes. Plus, cooking with the brew makes for edibles the whole family can enjoy; stout’s already low alcohol content literally evaporates during the heating process.