Drowning Shamrock | Off Color Brewing
March brings many things. The hope for better, nicer weather. Baseball spring training. March Madness. Irish red ales and Irish stouts. And the dreaded green. It absolutely overtakes the month of March, being dumped into libations at an exceeding rate. Joining that aspect of March (and late February as it were) is the always anticipated Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. I know because my former roommate Dennis Lee (Fart Sandwich on Twitter, writer for The Takeout and his Food Is Stupid substack) couldn’t get enough of them when released. (Update: Still at it!) Him being lactose intolerant made for quite an aromatic month in the apartment! Off Color decided to wade into the Shamrock Shake craze this year with their Drowning Shamrock (and not Beer For St. Paddy’s Day).
Except Off Color has already released this beer. Being a once-or-twice a year Shamrock Shake consumer, I’m kind of miffed that I don’t remember this beer the first time at all. Then I realized why. Off Color released it 3 years ago, which would coincide with March 2020. That was when the world went to shit due to the pandemic. Blarg. In any case, I’m glad Off Color decided to bring it back.
Drowning Shamrock presumably features Off Color’s Myshka serf stout as its base. To attempt to get the Shamrock Shake flavors in the beer just right, John Laffler and Dave Bleitner went through a local McDonald’s drive through and cleared them out of the shake. Kidding! They added vanilla, lactose, and mint along with “noble motives.” So it’s a serf milk stout. And Mousetrap taproom-only; no distribution.
Drowning Shamrock pours a caramel brown color with about two fingers of big bubbled khaki head. It does not pour green in any way which leads me to expectations on this beer. If you’re expecting anything even remotely close to McDonald’s Shamrock Shake you’ll be disappointed. It’s a beer first and foremost. That being said, you can’t see through it and it features crimson highlights, making it look more like a barleywine than anything else. The head rests at about a finger atop the beer.
Drowning Shamrock smells like an Irish dry stout right off the bat. A bit of malt and roast jump at you first followed by some chocolate (from the malt) and vanilla. The mint, however, seems to not be present. I’m not looking for a high mint aromatic level but some level of it would’ve been nice. So this basically smells like an Irish dry stout with some additional vanilla and (possibly) chocolate notes.
Drowning Shamrock’s main flavor comes in the form of chocolate. I’m not talking a brownie batter, cocoa powder, thick barrel-aged stout chocolate. It’s more of a chocolate dusting, with flavors peeking out every once in a while. Same goes for the vanilla, with a slight hint of it but never veering into marshmallow or frosting territory. Some roast character joins along for the flavor ride as well. Now to the elephant in the beer – the mint. It’s nowhere near Frango/Andes mints flavors. I liken what’s in Drowning Shamrock to mint essence. I didn’t really get that mint flavoring I’m used to but I did get a “cooling” sensation in my mouth. The mint lingers above the tongue, in your mouthspace. Refreshing!
Surprisingly, the 3.5% ABV serf stout has a little heft to it. It moves fast across the palate but remains full on the tongue. Light chocolate and vanilla notes hang around after the sip. All these things together make this an easy 4-pack purchase, as you could easily crush the whole thing in one March Madness game without question (or one stop on your St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl? I guess?).
But it ultimately comes down to expectation. If you’re expecting a Shamrock Shake clone, you’ll be disappointed and should look elsewhere. Go in expecting a light and sessionable beer with some nice chocolate, roast, and vanilla notes then you’ll be all in. Given that it’s a 3.5% ABV beer, I think Off Color pushed it as far as they could. At least they didn’t put actual shamrocks in it.