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St. Patty’s Day is the best holiday of the year, even if nobody knows who Patrick is

From impromptu bar crawls to Guinness alternatives, here’s how to make green beer day even better

St. Patty’s Day is the best holiday of the year, even if nobody knows who Patrick is

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but Christmas is not the best holiday of the year. It’s not Easter or Thanksgiving or Halloween, either. It’s definitely St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, I couldn’t really tell you who Patrick is or why we’re celebrating him (sorry, that’s probably sacrilegious), but I’m all about any excuse to cook up a feast and share it with all my favorite people.

It comes at the ideal time, too, giving you a reason to celebrate smack dab in the middle of the month, one that might be cold and snowing or warmish and windy. It’s likely muddy, and it’s not necessarily Durango’s best month when it comes to weather. Not only that, but St. Patrick’s always follows shortly after the worst day of the year. You know the one: where we spring forward for no good reason at all, sacrificing an hour that we don’t have to give to the gods of Daylight Savings. So why not hunker down inside, fill your belly with cured meats and potatoes, and adjust to your new time zone with the help of an Irish car bomb?

To help you get into St. Patrick’s Day as enthusiastically as I am, I’ll give you three options: make your own pub crawl, attend a Durango event, or plan a house party.

Make your own pub crawlAlmost every brewery in town has St. Patrick’s Day worthy beer on tap, so why not make a crawl out of it? Start out at Ska, where they’re slinging $4 Steel Toe Stouts and $3 specialty casks. There might be a long day ahead, so you should probably get in a good base by snagging a Big Billy sandwich (pastrami, swiss, kraut, and Rude Boy beer mustard on toasted country bread – yes, please!). Then grab your designated driver (or catch an Uber) and head downtown, stopping in at Carver’s for a pint of Irish Stout. Why drink (ahem) multinational corporate-owned Guinness when you have craft beer alternatives at your fingertips? Then, head up the road and keep on that stout train with Steamworks’ Backside Stout.

You should certainly consider a snack by this point, so head back over to Animas Brewing. I know, I know, you’re thinking that I’m sending you on a hell of a journey right about now, but trust me: the fresh air and the walk will do you good during a long day of drinking! Check out their nitro Low Flow Stout and pick up an Irie Pasty while you’re there. It’s filled with all your holiday favorites – corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and horseradish cheddar.

Are you sick of stout yet? Impossible – it is St. Patrick’s Day, after all – but why not switch things up and head down the street to Brew Pub and Kitchen to grab a pint of Patty, a crushable 5.3 percent malty red ale that’s not too sweet and not too bitter. Still craving the stouts? You can opt for a Kelley instead, a barrel-aged version of the Irish stout they brewed for St. Patty’s last year. The Woodford Reserve barrel the stout was aged in was freshly emptied, so this beer packs a bit of heat from the residual bourbon!

Now that you’ve toured the breweries, it’s time to hit the car bombs, and El Moro is the place to do it. You could ask for the traditional shot, but instead of Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey’s, you should absolutely order it their way, swapping in Steamworks’ Backside Stout, Slane Irish Whiskey, and Ryan’s Irish Cream Liqueur. Why support the big guys when you can choose craft instead? If you’re feeling adventurous, they’ll almost certainly be featuring a bomb with Fernet (of course, it’s El Moro!) and I’ve heard rumors there might be a funky one with Bali Hai Tiki Gold Rum from Cutwater Spirits, too.

Now it’s definitely time for dinner, so grab a special while you’re at El Moro or head down to the Palace for a traditional Irish corned beef dinner. Drink plenty of water and rest up, especially if it’s only Saturday and you’re planning to hit any of the events on Sunday.

Hit up a planned eventIf make-your-own-pub-crawl isn’t your jam, there are tons of events going on this weekend. For starters, you can go on the special St. Patrick’s Day train, whic may or may not be sold out by the time of this printing. You’ll have to make it to the station by 9:45 a.m. – a tall task if you spent last night car-bombing it up – but you’ll start feeling better once you breathe in the fresh air on your way to Cascade Canyon. Or you can hair of the dog it and order Irish beer and other drink specials on the train (including that tasty red ale from Brew).

Then there’s the Irish Embassy. How could you skip out on the town’s only Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day? They’ll have live Celtic music starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, a stand-up comedy show at 8 p.m., and Their Traditional Irish Music Jam Session starts Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (Did you know they do that every Sunday? You can bring an instrument and join in on the music, or just sit back and listen. It’s rad!). It’s the perfect opportunity to swing by if you haven’t been there in a while, because they just launched a new food menu and they’re serving up Irish breakfast every weekend starting at 8 a.m. You’ll find all the classics, including corned beef hash, but you should resist the urge to stay safe and try the Durango Nasty instead. A pimento cheese biscuit topped with fried chicken and gravy is both a hangover cure and a sure-fire way to prevent one.

Both the Underground and the Lounge will be open all weekend, so there will be lots of space for everyone. In addition to Guinness on tap, they’ll have a Colorado craft option (Breckenridge’s Nitro Irish Stout) along with other Irish favorites like nitro Kilkenney Cream Ale, Harp, or Smithwick’s Red Ale. Instead of getting a shot of Jameson, look for another option in their impressive collection of Irish whiskey, like some craft options from Glendalough, Knappogue Castle, Writer’s Tears, and Green Spot. And, because it’s St. Patty’s, you should really do a shot of Irish cream. I can’t recommend the Five Farms Single Batch Irish Cream Liqueur enough. This stuff is the real deal! They mix the liqueur within 48 hours of collecting the cream using real Irish Whiskey. Ask the bartender to show you the bottle. It’s an old-school swing-top glass milk bottle and it’s pretty rad.

For Sunday’s festivities, you’ll want to head over to 11th Street Station because they’re hosting a huge party with 929 The Point, and I can’t wait. It starts at 2 p.m., which means you’ll have plenty of time to sleep off your hangover. Think luck o’ the Irish meets carnival games. There will be tons of events like ring toss, and many of them are family friendly, so bring the kiddos. Participation gets you a spin of the wheel for discounts on drinks and pizza or some killer swag. The party will be on the front patio, which leaves the back patio wide open if you’d rather sit down and chill. I’m told each food truck will have a St. Patrick’s Day-themed food special done in the style of their cuisines, so you can expect to see corned beef hash pizza from The Box, a Lucky Clover roll from Mannie’s Fresh, enchilada verdes from the new Old Wheel cart, and Reuben sliders from Backcountry Gourmet.

Oh, and did I mention they’re doing car bomb time trials? There’s no way I’m gonna miss out on that!

Host a house party If bar-hopping and party-going isn’t your thing, stay in and host a St. Patrick’s Day party instead. It’s surprisingly easy to transform a brisket into corned beef ... although, if you’re hoping to start by the time you read this article, you’ve run out of time and you’ll need to buy a pre-brined one. Call up Sunnyside Market or the General Store in Vallecito and see if they have any left, or grab one at the grocery store. For something a bit different, rub the corned beef with your favorite steak rub and smoke it on the smoker instead of simmering it with pickling spices. It’ll become similar to pastrami, but you can still use it to make your favorite corned beef and cabbage dishes. And don’t forget about soda bread, potatoes colcannon, shepherd’s pie, Irish stew, and fried cabbage. And that’s not to mention all the fantastic leftover dishes you can make with any excess corned beef.

When it comes to drinks, skip the grocery store beer aisle and head over to Wagon Wheel liquors instead. They’ll have case upon case of Guinness and Smithwick’s Red Ale, along with craft options you should consider as alternatives. In fact, now is the best time to stock up on porters and stouts. In about three weeks, all the spring seasonals will take over, but we all know winter in Colorado might not quit until May. You may want to have some heavy beers on hand for those freakishly random April snowstorms.

You’ll find more than a few dark beer picks to replace Guinness, like Breckenridge’s Nitro Irish Stout, Wasatch Polygamy Nitro Porter, and Deschutes Obsidian Stout. Or, take the chance to think outside the box and swap in something like Left Hand’s Pixan Pepper Porter (dried cherry and plum flavors with subtle smoke, roasty malt sweetness, and the warmth of chilis? Uh-huh, that’s a yes). A 4-pack of McChouffe would be a great choice, too. This unfiltered Belgian brown ale is inspired by malty Scotch ales, and it’s dangerously drinkable at 8 percent. If you usually order a Black and Tan (which is apparently kind of offensive and we’re supposed to be calling it a Half and Half), go in for a jug of Mississippi Mud. Gross. I’m joking! Make your own by mixing any of the dark beers above with Renegade 1916 Colorado Lager.

Venture out past beer and check out the wide world of Irish Whiskey. This spirit has seen almost unstoppable growth in the last few years, and new distilleries are popping up all over the place. Professional fighter Conor McGregor released his Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey last year, and at only $23 a bottle, it’s – for sure – better than Jamo. I thought it was a gimmick, but I bought one anyway and can confirm it’s delicious. There’s also Slane, John L. Sullivan, and The Pogues, another celebrity whiskey that’s pretty damn good.

For dessert, snag a bottle of Coole Swan – a white chocolate Irish Cream Liqueur – or go for Baileys Almande if you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative. You can drink it on the rocks for a tasty treat, or whip up some car bombs with it. Stout beer ice cream floats are always an excellent option, too. Sounds like a solid night cap on a great day to me!

Lindsay Mattison