No more green beer 

Choose a more enlightened beer for your drinking pleasure this St. Paddy’s Day.

St. Patrick was a gentleman

Who through strategy and stealth

Drove all the snakes from Ireland

Here’s a drink to his health!

But not too many drinks

Lest we lose ourselves and then

Forget the good Saint Patrick

And see them snakes again!

-Author Unknown

The granddaddy of drinking days in America is upon us. St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone claims Irish heritage, guzzles green-tainted macro-adjunct light American lagers, or pours pint after pint of Guinness Stout down their gullets. Because that is what the Patron Saint of Ireland would have wanted … right?

I tease, of course. I have very fond memories of my days at the old Harp and Thistle Pub on St. Pete Beach, pouring beers from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next day. We’d sing loudly along with numerous pub singers, watch the Irish dancers leap about, and banter with the hundreds of revelers. Those were some very fun times, albeit tiring.

My St. Paddy’s days since then have been far more mellow. I’m older, have a family, and I like to think my taste in beer has refined quite a bit since then. While I love a well-poured, proper temperature and CO2-Nitro mixed Guinness as much as the next guy, I’ve discovered some great local alternatives to the “traditional” Irish offerings.

Thinking of drinking Guinness Stout? Go with Cigar City Brewing’s Patio Tools. The authentic dry Irish stout is made right here in Tampa Bay. It’s smooth, delicious, with coffee and chocolate notes, and all the malty goodness one should expect from this style. If you can get it on nitro, even better.

About to buy a pack of Newcastle Brown Ale? Try the Heights Brown ale from Southern Brewing and Winemaking. It’s a great brown with excellent hop character, balanced by the roastiness one would expect. Try it paired with corned beef.

Before ordering that Killian’s Red, ask for a pint of Dunedin Brewing’s Dropkick Murphy’s Erin Red ale. A delicious brew from Dunedin, this is a whole-cone Amarillo dry-hopped red ale. It comes in at a very drinkable 5 percent.

Instead of Bass Ale, try Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s One Night Stand Pale Ale. A nicely balanced and deliciously hopped pale, this is a great “everyone” beer. Not too light, not too heavy, just right to have a few while you celebrate.

If Harp Lager is on the mind, try Florida Beer Company’s Florida Lager. It’s a medal-winning Florida beer that’s both light and crisp. At 5.1 percent ABV, it’s suited perfectly for St. Paddy’s day in the Florida sun.

Got a sweet tooth? Try making an Irish Ice Cream Float. Drop one scoop of vanilla ice cream into a large glass, then gently pour your favorite stout on top. Try 7Venth Sun Brewing’s Stay Fly Imperial Porter, CCB’s Patio Tools, or Dunedin Brewing’s Leonard Croon. Drizzle just a bit of Irish whiskey over the top, maybe a dash of crème de menthe for color, and top with a wee bit o’ whipped cream.

Whatever you end up drinking, enjoy yourself. And remember to be safe. I know I have said it before, but it can’t be repeated enough: If you are drinking, do not drive. Period. There is simply no excuse to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. Even if you think “I am fine” or “I need my car."

The second you get behind the wheel after drinking, you put yourself and everyone else at risk of injury or death. It is simply not worth it. Get a cab. Call a friend. Bring a designated driver.

St. Patrick would have wanted it that way. Sláinte!

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