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Say sláinte! Five amazing beers from Irish craft brewers

Say sláinte! Five amazing beers from Irish craft brewers

by Doreen Joy Barber 01 March 2017

Doreen Joy Barber highlights five of her favourite craft beers from Ireland, in time for the St Patrick’s Day festivities.


When most people think of Irish beer, they think of the iconic pint of black liquid topped with a thick, creamy head. Guinness has embedded itself so prominently into the common concept of Ireland, it’s practically the national drink.

However, even the cultural behemoth of Guinness isn’t immune to the worldwide wave of craft beer, and Ireland has some incredible microbreweries who make fantastic beer for local enthusiasts as well as visitors willing to go beyond a dry stout. Here are a few beers for you to try when visiting, or to seek out in bottle shops and bars in Britain.

1. Rustbucket Rye (5.1%) – Kinnegar Brewing

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The Rustbucket Rye is a favourite of mine from Kinnegar, but to be honest, I haven’t had a bad beer at all from this brewery based in Donegal. Brews with a good amount of rye malt tend to be a bit drier and have a peppery sort of spice to them that really complements brews with pronounced, bold hop character. It’s incredibly flavoursome with zippier, citrusy notes and I find these sort of red rye ales are perfect alongside spicy dishes such as curry. Also look out for their Black Bucket Black Rye IPA—it’s phenomenal. Really, just look out for all of their beers.

2. KPA: Kinsale Pale Ale (5%) – Blacks of Kinsale

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Blacks Brewery in the picturesque seaside town of Kinsale makes an incredibly juicy pale ale that takes the name of the town. The KPA, brewed with Cascade and Citra hops, is everything you want a classic American-inspired pale ale to be: easy-drinking, fruity, refreshing and moreish. It’s an ideal beer for fish and chips or veggie fritters, or anything else that’s been kissed by the fryer, along with mac and cheese. Also, since Blacks’ Kinsale Pale Ale is available in cans, it’s made for backyard parties and barbecues once the summer months hit. Get it by the case!

3. Knockmealdown Irish Stout (5%) – Eight Degrees Brewing

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If we talk about a dry Irish stout, we’ll talk about the offering from Eight Degrees. The focus is on the Knockmealdown’s roasted malts in its malt bill, including chocolate malt—which is not actually made out of chocolate but rather the barley malt is kilned so its aromas and flavours lend the beer plenty of chocolate and coffee notes. It’s a dark, rich and beautifully smooth beer, complete with a lovely tan head, well worth having alongside steak and roasted meats, as well as chocolate desserts. Knockmealdown chocolate cake, anyone? Yes, please.

4.Of Foam and Fury Double IPA (8.5%) – Galway Bay Brewery

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It’s hard to talk about craft beer in Ireland without talking about Galway Bay Brewery, who also run several bars in Galway and Dublin packed with loads of their beers and guest brews. I’ve picked a fan favourite here with Of Foam and Fury, as well as a prizewinning beer! It’s dangerously drinkable considering its ABV ­– citrusy, resinous hops balance well with slightly sweet, biscuity malts to make a beer that’s been an incredible hit at beer festivals (I first had it not in Ireland, but at Leeds International Beer Festival). I’m hesitant to recommend food alongside Of Foam, because I feel like it needs to be appreciated on its own, but if you must, then try it with some amazing Irish cheeses, particularly cheddars and some washed-rind Gubbeen.

5. Aul Bruin Bagger (6.4%) – Brown Paper Bag Project

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It’s worth mentioning one of the gypsy brewing outfits active in Ireland, and Brown Paper Bag Project are a good one. Aul Bruin Bagger is a sour red/brown ale—think of a classic Flanders red like Rodenbach Grand Cru but with an Irish accent and a bit of a swagger. Tart, full-bodied with stone fruits and red berries on the nose, this is a brilliant beer to end an evening on next to a fire, or in L. Mulligan. Grocer, an incredible beer and whiskey pub in Stoneybatter, the brewery’s spiritual home. The pub recommends having the Aul Bruin Bagger alongside one of their black pudding Scotch eggs, which sounds like an epic pairing to me.

There’s so much more going on from Irish and Northern Irish breweries, it’ll be hard to try everything. Look out for beers from Trouble Brewing from Kildare, in particular their Vietnow IPA available on draught at certain pubs in Dublin. Belfast’s Boundary Brewingare co-operatively owned and run, and I’m looking forward to picking some up at Caps & Taps later this week. Whiplashare another interesting gypsy brewing project to mention along with their Scaldy Porter (aka your new favourite barbecue beer). A final mention goes out to YellowBelly Beer in Wexford and their large array of characterful beers.

If you’ve tried some great beers from Ireland and Northern Ireland that haven’t been mentioned here, let me know! I’d love to hear about them and look out for them on my next trip, or in the increasing bottle shops, online shops and bars stocking their brews here in Britain.

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