Best Irish Beers to Drink

By Gayot Editors

The Best Stouts, Ales and Lagers from Ireland

Ireland might be a small island off the coast of a somewhat larger island, but its breweries are big business. Guinness, which dominates the Irish beer market at home and abroad, is brewed in nearly 60 countries and sold in more than 100. Its parent company Diageo also owns Smithwick’s and Harp.

Then there is Heineken International, which owns Beamish and Murphy’s. But don’t worry, it’s not all big business. Irish craft beer is having a moment with brands like O’Hara’s and Porterhouse.

Check out GAYOT’s Best Irish Beers to get a full taste of what the Emerald Isle has to offer —from strong, rich and full-bodied sipping brews to light, crisp and satisfying thirst-quenchers.

For more Irish-themed celebrations, take a look at this Complete Guide to St. Patrick’s Day.

> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.

1. Guinness Blonde American Lager

Guinness Blonde American Lager

Origin: Dublin, Ireland
Beer type: Lager
Price: $7.99 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5%
Brewed by: Guinness

Irish tradition meets American spirit in the Guinness Blonde American Lager. Light with floral aromas and citrus flavors.

This beer is perfectly balanced with a lingering malt and biscuit finish. At just 5 percent alcohol by volume, Guinness Blonde American Lager adds welcome diversity to the Irish brewery’s stout-heavy lineup.

2. Guinness Draught

Guinness Draught


Origin: Dublin, Ireland
Beer type: Stout
Price: $8.49 for six-pack 11.2 oz
ABV: 4.2%
Brewed by: Guinness

Don’t fall for the myth that dark beers are higher in alcohol content and calories.

In reality, the roasted barley found in Guinness and other stouts only enriches taste. Weighing in at 4.2 percent ABV, 126 calories and only 9.9 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving, the Guinness served on draft in the United States is actually a light beer. However, with its rich chocolate and coffee flavors, and thick, velvety head, Guinness has a hearty feel that most low-calorie options lack. In addition, Guinness Draught or widget-equipped cans are pressurized with nitrogen, which produces smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, giving the beer a distinctive, creamy mouthfeel. The brewery once advertised that “Guinness Is Good for You,” and in the case of your waistline, it just may be. But be sure you’re grabbing the right Guinness — the Extra Stout packs in 175 calories and 6 percent ABV, while the Foreign Extra Stout boasts a hefty 225 calories and 7.5 percent ABV.

3. Harp Lager

Harp Lager


Origin: Dublin, Ireland
Beer type: Lager
Price: $6.99 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.5%
Brewed by: Guinness

Not everyone wants a beer to taste like a milkshake.

Luckily for them, there’s hope — Harp. This crisp summery lager, which comes from a country better known for its stouts and leprechauns, has a bitter beginning that quickly turns to clean and refreshing. This classic lager is smooth and solid.

4. Murphy’s Irish Red

Murphy's Irish Red


Origin: Cork, Ireland
Beer type: Red Ale, Irish Red Ale
Price: $7.99 for four-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 5%
Brewed by: Murphy’s

Irish red ales get their reddish hue from the small amounts of roasted barley they contain.

Some manufacturers artificially color their beers red, and as a result some beers labeled “red ales” are not truly so. In America, darker amber ales are also sometimes labeled as “red ales.” Murphy’s Irish Red was originally brewed as Lady’s Well Ale in 1856. Lady’s Well, located across from the company’s brewery in Cork, has been a religious site for Catholics since the 18th century. Dutch beer juggernauts Heineken International purchased the brewery in 1983. This true Irish red is dry, crisp, hoppy and very carbonated with some signs of fruit and caramel.

5. Murphy’s Irish Stout

Murphy's Irish Stout


Origin: Cork, Ireland
Beer type: Stout
Price: $5.99 for four-pack 15 oz.
ABV: 4%
Brewed by: Murphy’s

The lightest and sweetest of Ireland’s Big Three (Guinness, Beamish and Murphy’s), Murphy’s Irish Stout is the “nice guy” of the group.

But don’t be deceived — that just means you can drink more of ‘em. Think chocolate milk topped with a double shot of espresso and finished with a one-inch thick head of caramel-infused creamy goodness. Since the company’s acquisition by Heineken in 1983, Murphy’s has been enjoying a reputation as one of the fastest growing stout brands in the world. Have a Guinness for dinner, but save this one for dessert.

6. O’Hara’s Celtic Stout

O'Hara's Celtic Stout


Origin: Carlow, Ireland
Beer type: Stout
Price: $8.99 for four-pack 11 oz.
ABV: 4.3%
Brewed by: Carlow

Carlow Brewery is what you would call old school.

Its name comes from Carlow, a small town located in Ireland’s historic Barrow Valley region and home to a once-thriving craft beer scene. In the 1800s, crafting your own beer was a popular practice among the inhabitants of Carlow, but this ended with the takeover of small breweries by big business. Carlow Brewing Company, founded in 1996, is reviving this olde tyme way of producing beers long lost, motivated by the belief that their way of manufacturing beers is superior to modern methods. O’Hara’s Celtic Stout is true to the original Irish stout. It’s a robust, full-bodied combination of hops and roasted barley, providing both sweetness and a roasty bite with no artificial additives. Just hops, barley, yeast and water — that’s it. (Really makes you wonder what you’re drinking in all those other beers.) If you’re looking for the real deal, this is it.

7. O’Hara’s Curim Gold Irish Wheat

O'Hara's Curim Gold Irish Wheat


Origin: Carlow, Ireland
Beer type: Red Ale
ABV: 4.3%
Brewed by: Carlow Brewery

Ireland is famous for its stout, but this Irish wheat beer is worth checking out.

Also known as Curim Gold Celtic Wheat, O’Hara’s Irish Wheat is an easy-drinking golden ale. On the nose, it displays hints of banana, peach and plum, which balance the bitter hops on the finish. Mild and smooth on the palate, the beer’s wheaty flavor profile lacks the stronger whole-grain flavors typical of many American hefeweizens. At just 4.3 percent alcohol, the Irish Wheat works well with food or as a session ale. This product has limited availability in the U.S.

8. The Porterhouse Brewing Co. Oyster Stout

The Porterhouse Brewing Co. Oyster Stout


Origin: Dublin, Ireland
Beer type: Stout
Price: $3.99 for 11.2 oz
ABV: 5.2%
Brewed by: The Porterhouse Brewing Co.

Established in 1996, The Porterhouse is Ireland’s largest independent brewery.

Beginning with a Dublin pub, the company now operates bars as far afield as New York and London, bringing their craft brews beyond the Emerald Isle’s shores. The Porterhouse Brewing Company makes a varied range of stouts, ales, lagers, seasonal and specialty beers, including their popular oyster stout. The name is not a misnomer. While not all oyster stouts are actually made with the bivalve mollusk — some were simply designated as such because pubs served them with oysters — Porterhouse actually shucks fresh oysters into the conditioning tank. Fortunately, you won’t find them floating in your pint, but you should get a hint of their flavor — not full on, as if you were eating fresh seafood, but more subtly, as in Asian foods made with oyster sauce. The result may not be your typical Irish stout, but it still has the characteristic rounded malt flavors, creamy mouthfeel and smooth finish. Vegetarians, beware!

9. Smithwick’s Irish Ale

Smithwick's Irish Ale


Origin: Kilkenny, Ireland
Beer type: Red Ale
Price: $7.99 for six-pack 12 oz.
ABV: 4.5%
Brewed by: Smithwick’s

While Ireland is known in America for its hearty stouts, the country also has a long history of brewing crisp red ales.

Smithwick’s has been crafting its own rendition since 1710, although the original brewery dates back as far as the 14th century. Built on the grounds of a former Franciscan abbey, the site was once home to a group of beer-brewing monks. Smithwick’s is the major ale producer in Ireland and, along with Guinness, part of Diageo. Like Murphy’s Irish Red, this ale is characterized by caramel maltiness and a hint of hops.