In past March articles, I have written about where to go for St Patrick’s Day, as well as what beers to drink on the most Irish of days. What if you find yourself in Ireland? What beer are you going to drink? You are going to find Budweiser, Heineken and many other familiar names, but I’m sure you are going to want to try some things that you cannot try at home. Here are a few options that are either not available here in Massachusetts or might look familiar but are subtle riffs on what you find here. Enjoy yourself, and remember, don’t ask for green beer; that’s not a thing across the pond.
You are probably thinking that you can get Guinness, Harp Lager and Smithwick’s right here at home, and you are correct. I have been assured that the recipes are the same for the regular beers; however, they will taste different in Ireland. Is it the slight variation in the sourcing of the ingredients? Is the freshness? Is it different water chemistry? Who knows, but the closer you can get to St. James Gates, the flagship brewery in Dublin, the better. In addition, there are many variations that are not available stateside, so try them if you have the opportunity. The more on nitro, the better.
DUNGARVAN BREWING COMPANY
This is a small, 7-year-old craft brewery from southeast Ireland. While some breweries brew one or two excellent beers, Dungarvan brews a wide variety of great beers, which is why it made this list. Looking for something pale and light? The Helvick Gold Irish Blonde Ale delivers. The company also brews an Irish red ale, a traditional Irish stout and – if you are missing home – an American-style pale ale called Mine Head. You don’t have to visit the brewery. These beers are in numerous pubs.
FRANCISCAN WELL BREWPUB
14b North Mall in Cork is the address for this must-visit historical destination. It was, in a prior life, the Guinness bottling center for all of Cork County and, prior to that, an ancient Franciscan monastery. The well still flows with water today, but more importantly, the beer flows, as well. The brewery offers its own award-winning beers, beers from other brewers, food seven days a week and authentic, live Irish music. Come to think of it, you’re in Ireland, of course its authentic. If you want to see what a beer garden looks like, go no farther than just past the door. This brewpub has the No. 1-selling craft beer in Ireland, Rebel Red, and with everything else it offers, this is a must-visit.
CARLOW BREWING COMPANY
You have probably never heard of Carlow Brewing Company, but O’Hara’s Stout pops up now and again in the area. While in Ireland, do give this one a try. I find it to have a lighter body than most stouts, so this might please those that have an automatic adversity to dark beers. Just like Guinness, Carlow has a wide variety of beers exclusively available in its home country. An Irish red ale on nitro, various barrel-aged offerings and even some versions of an American IPA are available.
BEAMISH & CRAWFORD
Beamish Irish Stout is the only product that I am aware of from this brewery. I have included it because I remember from my review of a variety of Irish stouts that I found this one to be the sweetest, with some coffee and cocoa notes. I can only imagine that it would be all the better to have it closer to the source. If you wish your Irish stout was just a touch less bitter on the finish, give this one a go.
GALWAY BAY BREWERY
This brewery has the largest variety of beers of any brewery listed, and I bet you have never heard of them. Galway Bay also has about a dozen bars, with The Oslo on Upper Salthill in County Galway being the home of the brewery and the original microbrewery. In addition to serving some of its own beer and food, The Oslo has various international beers, ciders and wine. I’ve heard that it even has Stone and Sierra Nevada beers in stock if you are feeling homesick. This will surely have something to please anyone.
I love websites with maps that help you locate where to find craft beer. It not only helps you find a specific brand in an unfamiliar environment, but it helps you find the good craft beer and food places. Trouble brewing went to the trouble, pun intended, to put one of these maps on its website. Go to troublebrewing.ie and click on “Where.” Trouble brews a wide variety of beer, so I am sure you will find something you like.
By Kerry Cyganiewicz