Top Irish Craft Beers
Only ten years ago, you might only be able to get a Guinness or Heineken on tap, but times have changed. Finally after a lot of sweat, passion, fanfare and tears, craft beers have arrived in Ireland. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that craft beer is back, because for centuries, long before the big Irish breweries took overin the 20th century, every village and monastery in this country had its own brew. Many of the Irish microbreweries today are so tiny they’re almost nano, like they were in the days of yore. So, if you’re drinking an Irish craft beer, odds are that the owner or a daughter or a best friend has personally stirred it in its vat.
Yes, we know, craft beer can get out of control, with dictionary-sized beer menus and tattooed hipsters swirling their pint like it was Chambertin. But when the pretension gets to you, just remember that Irish craft beer, much like the people who brew it, has an old-fashioned, feisty heart.
Here are our favourites:
Tip: While pubs like Black Sheep on Capel Street and Against the Grain on Wexford Street specialize in a host of small, craft brews, also look out places that brew their own (Dublin Brewers at the Larder, Jack Smyths at Boxty House, Brown Paper Bag Project at L. Mulligan Grocer, Sweetman at JW Sweetman).
For those of you serious about chasing your Irish craft beer, download the BeoirFinder App to locate the latest craft brews and pubs.
Independent Brewing Company, Pale Ale of Connemara (ABV 6%) & Coconut Porter (ABV 3.9%), Galway.
Why We Love ‘Em: Pale Ale of Connemara is addictive, bitter, spicy, and refreshing. Everyone’s swooning over Independent’s new Coconut Porter – a British style, luscious creamy, full porter that really does taste of coconuts.
Where to Drink ‘Em: For the Pale Ale, Beerhouse on Capel Street, The Boxty House in Temple Bar. For Coconut Porter, Idlewild Bar on Fade Street.
Eight Degrees Brewing, Full Irish Single Malt IPA, Cork. (ABV 6%)
Why We Love It: A dark gold, hoppy beer, lively with grapefruit and lychee, with a solid malty backbone from its 100% Irish malt.
Where to Drink It: Against the Grain on Wexford, Bull & Castle at Christchurch, Norseman in Temple Bar, JW Sweetman on Burgh Quay, and Porterhouse in Temple Bar.
Trouble Brewing, Dark Arts Porter (ABV 4.4%) & Graffiti Session Pale Ale (ABV 3.5%), Kildare.
Why We Love Them: Dark Arts Porter is a connoisseur’s porter. Traditionally many porters are treated with nitrogen, which gives a creamy mouth feel but strips a lot of the flavor, leaving bitterness behind. Dark Arts Porter, which is unnitrogenated, is smooth and light, with echoes of chocolate, espresso, and malt. Independent adds a touch of non-dairy creamer (true!) which gives it that frothy, slightly sweet finish.
Graffiti Session Pale Ale is on the other end of the drinking spectrum. Grapefruity, hoppy, and summery, it is what affectionados call a “session” beer, which means its low alcohol content and light body means that you can drink quite a few of them during a long drawn-out period of fun which in Ireland is known as a session. (Yes, there’s a word for that).
Where to Drink ‘Em: L. Mulligans Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter; Against the Grain; Porterhouse in Temple Bar.
White Hag, Puca Dry Hopped Lemon Sour, Sligo. (ABV 3.5%)
Why We Love It: Sour beers are the au courant beer of the moment, and White Hag’s Puca sours, named after the Irish spirit who curdles milk, are at the forefront. The Puca with Berry, Hibiscus & Ginger is a great introduction, with its spicy, gooseberry bite, reminiscent of a slice of pucker-up fruit pie.
Where to Drink It: L. Mulligan Grocer; Porterhouse in Temple Bar.
Kinnegar, Rustbucket, Donegal. (ABV 5.1%)
Why We Love It: This combination rye and barley farmhouse ale is delightfully reminiscent of spices and toast.
Where To Drink it: L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter, Black Sheep on Capel Street, Sin É on Ormond Quay, WJ Kavanagh on Dorset Street, Beer House on Bolton Street, Winding Stair & Woolen Mills on Lower Ormond Quay.
Black Donkey, Scythe Belgian Pale Ale, Roscommon. (ABV 4.6%)
Why We Love It: When most craft breweries start with the trinity of pale, red, and dark, Black Donkey in Roscommon jumped straight into making Belgian style ales. Scythe is what Black Donkey calls their “lawnmower beer” – crisp, citrusy, refreshing, perfect for sipping after doing yard work on a summer’s day. A favourite session beer.
Where to Drink It: You can find Scythe in Fresh Markets in Smithfield and Grand Canal Dock. www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie.
Rascals Brewing Company, Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA, Dublin. (ABV 5%)
Why We Love It: Rascals is the whimsical, Amelie child of the craft beer family. Bright and bold, young and city, Rascals was one of the first craft breweries to put their product in a can. While Rascals put forth excellent Pale Ales and a Red year-round, their Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA, a hoppy concoction with lactose, strawberries, is also pure Rascals, bright, kooky, full of character and fruit.
Where to Drink It: Idlewild on Fade Street.
Lager, Yellowbelly, Wexford. (ABV 4.1%)
Why We Love It: You were wondering when we were going to talk about lagers, weren’t you? According to those who make it, lagers which ferment from the top-down, are more time-consuming and often more expensive than the bigger, rounder brews. Former L. Mulligan Grocer alum Declan Nixon makes the perfect lager which he just calls “Lager,” effervescent, crisp, refreshing, with hints of caramel and bread. It’s sunshine in a bottle, painstakingly calibrated to get that carefree flavour.
Where to Drink It: YellowBelly Lager is the house lager at the brewpub Simon Lambert & Sons. Also L. Mulligan Grocer, 57 the Headline on Clanbrassil Street.
9. Metalman, Equinox, Waterford. (ABV 4.5%)
Why We Love It: Grainne Walsh at Metalman is a brewer who loves her herbs, peels, and spices. This wheat lager is uplifting and lemony, thanks to orange and lemon zest, and aromatic with a coriander finish.
Where To Drink It: O’Donoghue’s on Suffolk Street, P. Macs at Stephens Street Lower, L. Mulligan Grocer, The Porterhouse Temple Bar.
It’s also available in cans in case you want to toss a few in a rucksack to take with you on a hike. At Fresh in Smithfield: www.freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie
Jack Smyth, Jack Smyth Red (ABV 5.4%) & Jack Smyth Stout (ABV 5.2%), Dublin.
Why We Love It: Padraig O’Gallagher’s beers, which he brews for his restaurant Boxty House in Temple Bar, are about straightforward flavors and nostalgia, namely the boyhood memories he had of drinking bottles at his parents’ pub on the sly. Named after his son, Jack Smyth Red is an amber-colored brew with notes of marmalade, butter, and malt, like toast spread with jam on an autumn morning. Jack Smyth Stout is a light and nostalgic with toasted notes of chocolate and malt.
Where To Drink It: Boxty House in Temple Bar.
Galway Hooker, Galway. (ABV 4.3%)
Why We Love It: The one and only. Founded in 2006, Galway Hooker is the artisanal grandpapa of Irish craft beer. Hooker is fresh and easy to drink, with notes of caramel, grapefruit, and biscuit. Plus, there’s the name.
Where to Drink It: Anywhere.
Written by Mei Chin
Photo by Jakub Kapusnak