Ah, Kilkenny House. Every town should have a quintessential "Cheers"-like pub, and Kilkenny is as neighborly as it gets. Along with the restaurant catering to families, they've got a full-sevice bar with a host of regulars that show up at the same time every day. The beer is familiar too. Like other neighborly establishments, they've got the usual brews – your Miller, your Guiness, your Bud Lite.
But around St. Patrick's Day Kilkenny House began regularly serving an item that fits in seamlessly with the establishment – very seamless. It's called Kilkenny beer, so, yeah. And no, it's not a signature brand. The place didn't just decide to become a micro-brewery overnight. It's an imported Irish brew, named after a city in Ireland and produced by the makers of Guinness.
Thus when I set out to try it, I expected something similar to Guinness. I pictured a heavy, dark beer. The kind that sit in your stomach like a full meal and causes (me at least) to feel like taking a long nap.
Don't get me wrong. I love dark beers. The more tangy and bitter, the better. However, I usually catch myself nodding off after drinking one. It's worth it, but...but...
I tried a glass of Kilkenny beer on St. Patrick's Day. The head of the beer was creamy, like mereugue – exactly like the foam found on top of every pint of Gusiness ever. So my hunch is right, I thought at first. But then I looked closer at the glass.
The similarity to Guinness stops at the top. To my surprise, the beer appeared to be a light amber color. It looked suspiciously like Miller Lite.
The beer tasted light and crisp. A brew I'd almost describe as refreshing. I almost expected it to quench my thirst. It didn't, of course. It's beer. It just made me thirstier.
So, what is Kilkenny beer? I'd compare to the love child of a Guinness and a lighter breed like Corona or Heinekin. It looks like it's going to be heavy – the foamy head presents the illusion. But then, it's light as light can be.
After trying the pint, I did some research on the beer (and by research, I mean I Googled it.) Wikipedia told me that Kilkenny beer is an established brand – a very established brand, As in, its ancestors were born in the 14th century in Ireland someplace. It hails, in self-explanatory fashion, from the Kilkenny municipality on the Emerald Isle.
While abundant in its home country, it's apparently pretty rare in the United States except for a few select Irish establishments.
In fact, an engaged lady from the United States eager to serve the brew at her reception this year created a Facebook group in support of getting more of the brew imported here.
Called "Bring Kilkenny Beer to the United States!" it boasts 470 members and appears to serve as a place for people to share with others the pubs they've discovered that serve it. (Kilkenny House is indeed mentioned.) And also it serves as a sounding board for people living in cities where the brew can't be found anywhere. ("Been looking everywhere for the past few years since I had it. No luck anywhere near Phoenix," mourns one such poster.)
On taste, Kilkenny beer is similar to Smithwick's Draught, another beer that also originated in Kilkenny. However Kilkenny has less hops – the plant ingredient in beer that creates bitter taste. Hence, the look and taste of a light brew.
So if you are in the mood for a distinct type of beer, but don't want to be carrying around a stomach full of barley all night, I'd say Kilkenny beer is your man. That's my advice. Just don't expect that you can pick up a six-pack. Kilkenny House, located at 112 South Avenue East, appears to be the only server of this distinct brew around here.
Each week, Cranford Patch will be trying out new food and drink in town, – everything from burritoes to tea. If you want your restaurant on our radar send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.