This St. Patrick’s Day, just say no to Guinness. And Smithwick’s. And Harp.

Yeah, yeah, but it’s St. Patty’s Day – I get it. I just can’t support drinking mediocre, stale beer, especially when we live smack dab in the middle of the most vibrant, most innovative beer culture the world has ever seen. So, this year, instead of partaking in one of these mass-produced Irish beers, why not drink something fresh and local?

The impetus for my plea was actually M.L. Wolfsohn’s recent Epikur piece on the Pennsylvania wine scene; it’s a fascinating take on how there is much potential to make great wines here, but that the financial situation isn’t quite right. While pondering this article and my wine habits, however, it dawned on me that there’s another tasty drink that’s much further along on the “world class in our backyard” scale: beer. The United States is making the best beer in the world, bar none. Better than Germany, better than the Czech Republic, better than Belgium. That’s right, better than Belgium. If you want to drink local, and drink well, beer is the ticket.

Most traditional beer markets are hindered by tradition and a reliance on the old ways (something that can be seen as a positive, ironically, in the wine world). In the US, however, creativity is tantamount. Our brewers regularly experiment with different styles, the blending of styles, and ingredients not often found in beer. This leads to a diversity of choice that is unheard of elsewhere. (It’s highly unlikely, for example, that Guinness will be offering a stout brewed with chicory anytime soon – but our own Dogfish Head offers that tasty option!)

In addition, for most beers sold in the world, freshness is crucial to overall quality. Yes, there are some bottle conditioned beers with high alcohol volumes that can benefit from some time, but these are a very, very small percentage of beers sold. Otherwise, the sooner you drink it, the better it’s going to taste, which means that, for the Philadelphia drinker, beer brewed in Harrisburg is probably going to taste better than beer brewed in Dublin.

My disdain for imports is not limited to Ireland, of course. I continue to see people drinking crappy, mass-market imports like Heineken and Stella Artois as if they are somehow a step above American beers. These people have obviously never tried Victory’s Prima Pils, a traditional pilsner (lager) that offers freshness and vibrancy that these European beers simply cannot match.

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, instead of ordering whatever Irish swill is on special, try something local instead. Did you plan on drinking Guinness? Try a creamy, robust Lancaster Milk Stout. Prefer Smithwick’s? Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Red (from Ohio) is impeccably smooth. Harp? Get your hands on some bright, fragrant Victory Lager.

Drinking local beer, of course, goes beyond everyone’s favorite boozehound holiday. It’s a year round request: the next time you are faced with a beer buying decision, and are tempted to pick up an import, don’t. Just say no. Find something brewed closer to home that’s of a similar style. Or perhaps a style you haven’t tried before. Both your taste buds and your community will thank you.

Originally published on Epikur / Wine School of Philadelphia.

Photo by Mike Knlec