The Best Irish Beers to Enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick's Day is meant for Irish beer. And while Guinness stout is a go-to, it’s certainly not the only option. We spoke with some industry pros to get their suggestions for the best Irish beers. Sláinte!
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Irish pub culture is really something special. As Christopher Mullins Jr.—co-owner of one of the oldest continuously operating pubs in Philadelphia, McGillin’s Olde Ale House—describes, a pub in Ireland always has “a sense of community, a welcoming atmosphere and a family focus.”
This comforting setting leads to afternoons that turn into late nights filled with story swapping, laughing and some of “the best Irish music you could imagine.” And while we can’t all travel to Ireland this St. Patrick’s Day, the best Irish beers can help bring a touch of authenticity to your celebration, whether you’re at a pub or at home.
If you’re throwing a party this year, fill out your space with some of these Irish pub decor items.
Irish Beer Availability
Before we dive into the suggestions, note that some of these Irish beers won’t be available everywhere. As Ian Cliffe, co-owner of House of Guinness in Waukesha, WI, explains “we’ve lost a few brands the last couple years to distribution issues or lack of demand.” So don’t be alarmed if you can’t find some beers at your local bar or liquor store. Don’t be afraid to ask your bartender for some more options, or to make one of these St. Patrick’s Day shots.
Psst: Ian co-owns House of Guinness with his brother, sister-in-law and Taste of Home Executive Editor, Ellie Martin Cliffe!
O’Hara’s Irish Stout
If you’re craving a traditional dry stout for St. Patrick’s Day, check out O’Hara’s Irish stout. It has the same full-bodied, robust malt profile and creamy mouthfeel as Guinness, and it finishes dry and sweet. O’Hara is so delicious that it’s been the official Irish stout at McGillin’s for the past 15 years. What makes this brew especially unique? O’Hara’s is the only Irish stout still exclusively brewed in Ireland.
Sullivan’s Malting Irish Red Ale
Made with four kinds of malt and three types of hops, this red ale from Sullivan’s is packed with flavor. The malt blend creates rich notes of molasses, bread and caramel, but the deep-ruby red ale is still light enough to enjoy multiple pints, or alongside one of these classic Irish recipes.
Guinness may brew this beer, but this lager is everything that their signature stout is not. If you’re not in the mood for a thick, milkshake-like brew, you’ll love the light, crisp flavor of Harp lager. It’s sweet, creamy and refreshing—and it pairs perfectly with colcannon potatoes.
Can’t decide what you’re in the mood for? Mix this light lager with a dry stout to create a half and half.
Smithwick’s Irish Red
Smithwick’s Irish red ale is another departure from the traditional heavy stouts. It has a sweet and malty backbone, but the burst of flavorful hops balances it out with a touch of bitterness, keeping it easy to drink. Smithwick’s is also a perfect companion for the rich, salty flavor of your corned beef and cabbage.
Murphy’s Irish Stout
Like Guinness, Murphy’s Irish stout is sold in draught-style cans, complete with a nitro widget that helps it pour just like it would at the pub. This Cork-based beer is rich and thick, and because its pronounced coffee presence helps it finish less bitter, it almost tastes like chocolate milk.
Those who are throwing their own celebration will want to take a look at this St. Patrick’s Day party checklist.
Porterhouse Red Irish Ale
If you can get your hands on Dublin’s Porterhouse beers, you’re in for a treat. The cool, funky packaging describes this craft red ale as “exuberantly, joyfully fruity with a bit of malty caramel.” Making it a nice change from the traditionally heavy Irish beers. It should pair well with carb-heavy boxty, Ireland’s version of potato pancakes.
If you’re cutting back on alcohol, you can still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a non-alcoholic pale lager! Kaliber, which is made by the Guinness company, is brewed as a regular ale that then has its alcohol content removed for an ABV of less than .5%. Because of this process, Kaliber has all of the crisp and refreshing flavors of a traditional pale ale without the threat of a hangover.
Speaking of Guinness, you can use up any leftovers of the classic stout in these Guinness recipes.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
This Guinness Foreign Extra Stout edition goes beyond the dry beer you know and love. It’s strong and rich with a chocolate-forward, fruity flavor and more hoppiness than a traditional Guinness. Pair it with a cheese platter or turn it into dessert with this Guinness Float.
Magners Irish Cider
Magners cider isn’t beer, but it is very Irish and comes recommended by both Chris and Ian. As Ian explains, Magners “is a classic dry Irish cider with a rich amber color and is less sweet than many other ciders,” making it a good option to sip on for the night or to refresh your palate between beers.
Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale
Okay, we know that Great Lakes Brewery is located in Cleveland, not Ireland. But with some Irish brands cutting back on distribution, we agree with Ian that “it’s a great time to grab some of the limited releases from local breweries.” Conway’s Irish Ale, which Ian highly recommends, is a toasty and slightly sweet red ale that’s available seasonally, starting in January.
By the way, these are the best craft beers from each state.
Left Hand Milk Stout
This Colorado brewery is doing it right with its sweet Milk Stout, which can be found bottled with nitro widgets to give it a creamier consistency and a thick, milkshake-like head. It might not be a traditional course on the St. Patrick’s Day menu, but this beer makes a killer pairing with oysters.
Harpoon Celtic Ale
This Boston-brewed Irish red ale is generous in both hops and malt. It’ll taste great no matter whether spring comes early this St. Patrick’s Day or winter lingers a bit longer than expected. Enjoy it with the luscious combination of creamy egg yolk and savory sausage by making a few Scotch eggs.
George Killian’s Irish Red
While it has the word “red” in the title, this one’s actually an Irish lager! It does have toasty notes, but it finishes light and peppery. It makes a nice balance against rich and creamy dishes, like a cheesy potato casserole.
Irish Craft Brews
If you’re lucky enough to be in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day (or really, any occasion) be sure to try some craft breweries. Chris recommends the Black 16 stout from Wicklow Brewery, which is located about an hour’s drive south of Dublin.
James Schend, Taste of Home Culinary Deputy Editor, is a fan of Rascals Brewing Company’s rich Irish Coffee stout and Galway Bay Brewery’s Weigh and Measures, which is a session IPA made with Citra hops.
Both Chris and James also suggest Galway Hooker Brewery (named after a type of fishing boat), which offers five limited-edition beers in addition to their flagship Irish pale ale, amber lager and traditional Irish stout.
Next, check out these traditional Irish dishes that will transport your tastebuds to the Emerald Isle.