Guide to Irish Beer

Your guide to Irish Beer


Here’s the problem with a post acting as an Irish beer guide:  There are simply too many delicious, amazing, awesome Irish beers for us to truly do them all justice.  So, while we’ve already proven we are a fan of the brew, we can’t possibly mention all the Irish beer.   (Though, if you tour Ireland, you sure should try as many as you can!)  Trust us, Ireland is responsible for some of the best beer you’ll ever taste.   This post, however, is in no way intended to be a fair and equitable representation of all Irish beer.  Sorry, but not all things in love, war, or beer, are fair.  Tenon Tours will happily be your guide to Irish beer.

We’ll start your Irish beer guide and education with a break down of the types of Irish beer.

A darker, richer beer than a porter, stout is brewed using toasted barley, malt and/or hops.  This Irish beer is characterized by it’s dark color. You’ll hear it called black beer or leann dubh in Irish beer talk.   The taste is often compared to coffee or dark chocolate, depending on the variety.   Stout Irish beer is often served nitrogenated for a longer lasting head.  Guinness, the true icon of Irish beer, is said to have been the first to brew stout.  Guinness is also responsible for popularizing stout in Ireland where, remarkably, stout beer is significantly more popular than other countries.

Lager comes from a German word meaning to ‘store.’  Lagers are brewed and stored for quite some time.  The popular style accounts for 63% of all sales of beer in Ireland.  As Irish beer goes,  the lager is typically light and pale.   They are bottom fermented and stored at low temperatures for long periods of time.  Aptly named ‘lager,’ no?  Typically, they are light and refreshing, if a bit hoppy.

Red Ale (Irish Red Ale)
Brewed with hops, red ale often has a red color.  Ales are brewed by top-fermenting.  Top-fermenting yeast can survive higher temperatures and higher alcohol contents.  The Irish beer question is, what makes red ale so special?  The jury is out, but we’re going to say the color.  From light brown to amber, it’s still considered a red ale.  If you drink your red ale in Ireland, it’s only fair you call it an Irish red ale…, or just call it an Irish beer so no jury need get involved.  Historically, beer experts aren’t sure the ‘Irish’ descriptor should be added, just be aware of this so you get your Irish beer straight.

To appropriately wrap up your Irish Beer Guide, we’re going to give you some homework.  It’s going to be tough.  You might curse us later.  Alas, the study of Irish beer cannot be easy, can it?  We assign you: pay attention, to go forth on your Ireland tour and taste these notable Irish beers.  The (not complete, but possibly mostly popular) list of Irish beers:

  • Guinness
  • Beamish
  • Galway Hooker (Yes, it is a beer. Oh, and a sailing boat)
  • Harp
  • Kilkenny
  • Kinsale
  • Murphy’s
  • O’Hara’s
  • Smithwick’s

If you aren’t a beer fan, consider these other Irish drinks you might enjoy.  There’s one other thing:  As you drink your beer, check out the labels and history for popular Irish symbols. For example, Harp beer, a lager, used the Irish symbol of a harp. Ireland once boasted some of the best harpists in the world.  A harp also appears on the label of Guinness beer.

This list does nothing to acknowledge the smaller Irish beer created by craft or micro breweries. Tag us in your pub or brewery photos on social media: @tenontours or #travelwithtenon.


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