I‘m a fan of beer (I’m a fan of most Irish drinks, actually!). But, to be completely honest, up until around 3 years ago, I hadn’t tried many Irish beer brands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the odd bottle of beer from the lads in the Boyne Valley and I used to drink cans of Harp in a field near my house as a kid.
BUT… I’ve never really made a conscious decision to sample Irish beer brands… up until 2016, that is.
In the summer of 2016, I headed off on a little quest to try as many different Irish beers as possible, whether it be from a can, bottle or tap.
So, while I’m by nowhere near a beer expert (I know f*ck-all about taste notes and all that craic) I’ve created a guide to 17 Irish beers worth sipping on in 2020.
The best Irish beers
I’ve included a fair bit of variety on the list below. Some are the old reliables, like Guinness, while others, like Scraggy Bay, are less well known but are non-the-less tasty.
This guide is in no way sponsored or any of that craic – the Irish beer brands popped in below are ones that I’ve tried and that I can happily recommend.
Have a good Irish beer that you’d recommend? Scroll to the bottom of this guide and leave a comment with the name.
1. Scraggy Bay
Although Scraggy Bay (the one with the yellow wrap above) isn’t one of the most popular beers in Ireland, it’s hands-down one of my favourites.
I started drinking this a few years ago when I was working in Dublin City. It’s made by a Donegal-based brewer called Kinnegar and it’s a mighty beer.
This is a fairly strong (5.3% volume), refreshing Irish beer that packs a punch. You may need to go digging to find this one, but it’s well worth searching for.
2. The Wicklow Brewery Stout
The stout from the Wicklow Brewery is absolutely DELICIOUS. So much so that it topped our guide to the best Irish stout.
Honestly! I’m a big Guinness fan, but if this stout was more readily available, it’d be my go-to drink.
I had a couple of pints of this before and after doing a tour of the Wicklow Brewery. It was the only other stout that I’d tried other than Guinness, and I was a little wary of it.
I needn’t have worried, however. Both pints arrived with nice thick heads and every last drop had nice subtle hints of coffee, chocolate and a bit of nuttiness.
3. Mescan Brewery Beer
Now, this beer was given to me as a gift by a friend from Westport last year. When I opened up the box and peered in, I assumed that it was something crafty from overseas… I was wrong.
Mescan Brewery can be found on the slopes of Croagh Patrick in Mayo and is owned and run by two Westport vets, interestingly enough.
There are several different beers from the lads at Mescan that you can sip away on. I tried the Westport Blonde. The only issue I had was that there was only one bottle of it in the little gift set.
The water used in the Mescan beers comes from deep beneath Croagh Patrick via a spring near the brewery, which is pretty damn cool. Well worth picking up.
4. Guinness: The king of Irish stouts
Guinness tops the list of the most famous Irish beer on the market today, unsurprisingly enough, and it has been brewed at St. James’s Gate in Dublin since way back in 1759.
If you’re reading this from outside of Ireland, the chances are you’ll be able to find Guinness on-sale near where you live, as it’s sold in 100+ countries across the world.
However, not all pints of Guinness are equal. If you’re in search of a decent pint of Guinness, it’s worth having a nosey through locals Irish sites or forums (e.g. ‘Irish in X’) to source a solid pint.
I was served the pint above back in 2016 in a little pub on the island of Inis Oirr. To this day I’m yet to have a better pint. Look at the grand fat head on it!
5. O’Hara’s Irish Wheat
My God let me start this one with a disclaimer – while O’Hara’s do a fine Pale Ale, drink ’em slow and knock back some water as you go (that unintentionally rhymed…).
One of the worst hangovers that I’ve ever had came after knocking back 5 or 6 of O’Hara’s Irish beers at a wedding a few years back.
This IPA combines the balance of European IPAs with the dry hopping of American pale ales. Expect zesty notes and a bitter finish.
6. Murphy’s Irish Stout
I sank my first Murphy’s in December of 2019 and it was served up to me with a head so plump and thick that I could have rested a Euro coin on it…
Murphy’s originated in Cork and dates back to 1856. I’ve found this hard to come by where I live (Dublin), but it’s sold widely in Cork.
This stout is only 4% proof, so it’s pleasant to drink and leaves very little after taste. I have a few cans of this stuff in the fridge, and it’s pretty decent out of a can, too!
7. Five Lamps Irish beer
‘The Five Lamps’ is an iconic lamp post with (unsurprisingly) five lanterns, which stands at the junction of five streets (Portland Row, North Strand Road, Seville Place, Amiens Street and Killarney Street) in Dublin.
‘The Five Lamps’ is also a relatively new Irish beer brand that opened up shop back in 2012. I went through a spell of drinking this back during the summer of 2017 and must make a point of sinking a few of these soon.
There’s a nice strong taste to the Five Lamps beer, but it’s only 4.2% volume. This is ideal for drinkers like me who want something with a bit of flavour, but don’t fancy the hangover that drinking some mental 8.9% Irish craft IPA brings.
8. Harp Irish Lager
Harp Irish Lager gets a bit of a bad rep from some people, but it’s a solid drop when served cold. I spent many a summers evening drinking warm cans of this in a field in Swords, in North Dublin.
It wasn’t until many years later that I sampled a cold pint of it on draught in a pub in the city… it’s safe to say it’s far better served frosty!
Harp is an Irish lager that was created in 1960 by Guinness in its Dundalk brewery. Although Harp is a top Irish beer in much of Northern Ireland, it can be tricky to pick up elsewhere.
Give it a lash if you see it on tap. It tends to be pretty good value for money, too, if my memory serves me.
9. Dublin Blonde
Next up is a reasonably well known Dublin beer – Dublin Blonde. This beer is brewed by the lads at Irishtown Brewing Co. in Dublin, a stone’s thrown from the sea.
Three types of hops – Taurus, Mittelfruh and Saaz – are used during the brewing process to deliver a crisp beer that’s full of flavour and easy to sip.
I tend to drink this if I’m out for a night on the beer as I find that it doesn’t fill me up as much as a clatter of Guinness tends to.
10. Boyne Brewhouse Beers
Next up is the colourful Irish Lager from the folks at the Boyne Brewhouse in Drogheda in County Louth.
I’m a big fan of the beers that come from the Boyne Brewhouse. Mainly because they offer such a ridiculous choice. There’s a heap of different beers produced in the brewhouse and they tend to be on sale in most off licences and supermarkets.
I’ve tried a few of the beers from the folks at the Boyne Brewhouse over the past year. Their Irish lager and Pale Ale are both pretty damn tasty, but I wasn’t mad on the Amber Ale.
I’d heard a lot of chatter about Kilkenny Irish cream ale over the years, but I was always a little bit wary of tasting it. Ale with a Guinness head? Nah, cheers. You’re grand…
It wasn’t until 5 or 6 years ago that I gave this a lash for the first time in a bar in Cork. I was pleasantly surprised, and I’ve had it many times since.
Kilkenny is an Irish cream ale that began its life in the St. Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny. It has a nitrogenated cream head, similar to that on a pint of Guinness, which makes it lovely to look at and even lovelier to sip.
12. Franciscan Well’s Friar Weisse
This is another one that can lamp you out of it with a hangover if you’re not careful. If you’re not familiar with the Franciscan Well Brewery, it’s one of Ireland’s longest established and most respected craft breweries.
You’ll find it in Cork where it also has a deadly pub attached to it. The cream of the crop (in my opinion) is the Franciscan Well Friar Weisse.
This is a German-style unfiltered wheat beer that has a fair bit of zest to it. If you’re looking for a good Irish beer that packs a punch, give this a go.
13. Galway Hooker
A Galway Hooker is a traditional fishing boat that’s used in Galway Bay… I’m putting this in here because I know we’ll have plenty of people scratching their head over the name (I’m looking at you, Americans!)
Galway Hooker is also a beer produced by Connacht’s oldest brewery on the West Coast of Ireland. This is a traditional style of an India Pale Ale and is packed full of citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
If you’re looking for an Irish beer that steers away from the more run-of-the-mill beer flavours, give Galway Hooker a crack.
14. Wicklow Wolf Elevation Pale Ale
I’m not usually a fan of fruity beers. Which is why when one of the lads brough over cans of Elevation Pale Ale from the Wicklow Wolf, I was a bit wary.
When we gave it a Google, the brewers described it as, ‘An incredibly drinkable Pale alete wise, it’s bursting with juicy fruits of pineapple and grapefruit from an abundance of hop additions. Refreshing.‘
This did nothing to help my confidence, but after knocking back a couple I was quickly won over. It’s now one of my favourite Irish ales (mainly because the off-licence around the corner always has it on offer!).
If you’re looking to try a few different flavours, the Eden Session and the Mammoth are also pretty good!
15. Guinness Golden Ale
Next up is the relatively new Guinness Golden Ale. I was given a handmade gift set with a bottle of this as part of a secret Santa present recently, and it was deadly.
The one thing that’d put me off buying it is the price – a bottle of it from Tesco will set you back around €3.25, which is steep.
Guinness Golden Ale is brewed up using Guinness yeast, Irish Barley, hops, and amber malt. If you’re looking for a light Irish beer that’s pretty tasty, give this a crack.
16. Smithwick’s Blonde (‘Smittix’)
I was at a gig in Vicar Street a couple of weeks back and a bottle of this stuff caught my eye. I knew after the first sip that I’d be wrapping my fingers around plenty more of these in the years to come.
Smithwick’s Blonde is a crisp and ever-so-slightly citrusy Blonde Irish Ale that’s pleasant to sip and that leaves little to no lingering taste.
If you’re not familiar with the Smithwick’s brand, it was founded in Kilkenny in 1710 by John Smithwick and run until 1965 when it was bought by Guinness.
16. Rockshore Irish Larger
OK – to be perfectly honest, I’d never drink Rockshore. Personally, I think it tastes like watered-down Coors Light which, if you’ve ever tasted Coors Light, you’ll know isn’t a compliment.
BUT… I’ve enough friends that drink it regularly enough to warrant it being included. Rockshore is another light Irish beer brand that’s brewed at St. James’s Gate.
The makers say that it was ‘Inspired by the West Coast’ and they use visuals of the Wild Atlantic Way to promote it. One for those of you not fond of strong tasting beer.
We get a fair few beer-related questions from those visiting Ireland for the first time and from those just back from a recent visit.
I’ve tried to pop in as many below as I could. If you have a question that wasn’t tackled, lash your comment into the comments section and I’ll get back to you.
What is the best selling beer in Ireland?
I can’t find any recent figures on the best-selling beer in Ireland. The most recent report that I can find is from back in 2015 which reveals Heineken as Ireland’s biggest-selling beer.
Can you recommend Irish beers that aren’t Guinness?
There are a lot of people out there that can stomach the taste of Guinness. If you’re one of them, try Murphy’s Irish Stout. This has less alcohol volume than Guinness and it tends to have less of an after taste.
I tried an Irish red beer during my visit but I can’t remember the name – help!
I’d hazard a guess that this was Smithwick’s Irish red ale. It was either that or one of the Irish ales from O’Hara’s or Murphy’s.
How many Irish breweries are there?
According to Wikipedia, there are around 50 or so Irish breweries currently in operation. If you added distilleries to this list, you’d have a big ass list!
What’s your favourite Irish beer?
Have you a go-to Irish beer that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll take a look.
Have you tried any of the above beers and wanted to spit it right back out? Let me know below!