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Don't Drink Green Beer

There was a girl I saw something of if college, one of those lady-like old school Southern Belles who wasn’t afraid of a cigarette, but would never smoke one standing up. She was of Irish descent – which was obvious from across the quad, but you had to set your sight low because she was only 5” 1’. She called me on one the 18th of March and said without so much as a hello, “My pee is bright green.”

As couples go, we weren’t the sort that shared that kind of information. More crucially, as a Economics major at the time, I wasn’t qualified to answer questions about the human body. This was the first (and last) time we’d ever discussed urine – you need to save that sort of thing until after marriage, and even then only if you are forced into a corner. Still, I was something of a soak in those days and reckoned I knew was a gallon of green beer could do to a bladder.

Personally, I’ve never been a big beer guy, and if I’m going to go Irish, it’ll be something like Guinness because you can’t drink enough of the black stuff to get the same effect. When my little brother owned a wonderful college bar called Murff’s in Oxford, Mississippi – his St. Paddy’s special was the twist on the boilermaker – a snort of Bushmill’s dropped into a pint of Bass Ale – called a “car-bomb.” His recipe was more geopolitical than mixology; he thought the idea of an Irish Bushmill’s being dropped into a British ale was hilarious. In bad taste, but funny.

A quick note on the identity politics of Irish whiskey – you’ll hear that Bushmill’s is Protestant and Jameson is Catholic. True, Bushmill’s is made from in the largely protestant north, and Jameson ins the Catholic Republic – but with only four distilleries, they swaped out barrels and whiskey making all of it a bit of a mixed marriage. And, if you want to get to the brass tacks – Bushmill’s founder Colum Egan was Catholic and John Jameson was Scottish and likely Presbyterian. So there we are. Back to more practical matters…

With carbs taking a beating these days, and all the fashionable “modern fit” clothes being a little too snug, you might want to stick to Irish whisky this year and given those “performance stretch” shirts a little less to cling to. And this year you’ll have more choices than you because Irish whiskey is on a tear. In 2010 there were four distilleries in Ireland, and either despite their economy collapsing (or because of it) 10 years later, in 2020 there were 30 distilleries.

There is the fabulous Writer’s Tears. Clever as the name is, I hoped it just a marketing gimmick. I know that actual writer’s tears have a bitter and lonely aftertaste. There is nothing bitter about this stuff. Writer’s Tears Double Oak was a 2019 Top 20 pick from Whiskey Advocate magazine. It’s made the traditional way, and finished the whiskey in American white oak bourbon barrels, and then French oak cognac casks. All of which gives a depth and complexity to Writer’s Tears that most don’t associate with Irish Whiskey. You get a deep color that you might mistake for cognac or bourbon. There the similarities end.

It’s got a nose that gives you dark rich fruit, dark chocolate and spices. There is oak on the front end. I’ve heard other reviewers talk about a honey blonde sweetness – but I think that I’m picking up the same quality as an almost cosmic smoothness of a dark, mellow vanilla. You don’t get much heat, just a finish that’s both peppery with a hint of little green apple.

Knappogue Castle which is collecting awards left and right for its 12 year old expression as well as its 16 year old. Either one is fantastic. The 16 year old is, as you might have guessed, pricier, but if you’re in the mood to splash out, it’s worth it.

In the end, for an everyday sipper, it’s hard to beat Redbreast – which predates the distillation explosion in Ireland. I even featured it in a strange scene the first novel I wrote, Yellowcake. Although the book is actually about a dirty bomb and not cocktails. Its light, fruity and flecked with spices. Its great with a single cube or, if you’ve got something to prove, neat.

Either way, stay hydrated, be nice and as they say at Burning Man “Pee clear.”


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