Sunday, May 6, 2012

Irish Beer Options

It's a bit alarming and unfortunate how many people (tourists slightly more than locals) drink non-Irish mass-market beer in Ireland.  And if you're a more adventurous tourist, you're probably sticking to Guinness, maybe Harp.

However, while I don't exactly have great intelligence on Irish craft breweries, I still managed to find a couple of nice alternatives to the usual, almost by chance.


Right on the edge of Temple Bar in Dublin is the main location of the Porterhouse, which serves its own beers, plus a few guest taps.  They even do North American-style samplers!  We tried their Porter, Oyster Stout (spicy), XX Stout, Irish Red Ale, and Pilsener, all of which were very tasty.  They do several seasonals, and listed a few North American styles as well (which they had run out of).  Definitely worth a visit if you're in town.

Galway Hooker

Galway, on the West coast, also has its own craft brewery, which brews a locally-reknown and lovely pale ale called "Galway Hooker."   Much better fresh on tap than out of a bottle (where you lose the fruity hop character).  They brew other styles for some local pubs in Galway, including what appears to be a kind of dunkelweizen.

Mrs. Hoplog enjoying a fresh Galway Hooker (juvenile humour omitted)

Other Stouts

In my opinion, the top three most popular stouts in Ireland are, in descending order, Guinness (Dublin), Murphy's (Cork, owned by Heineken) and Beamish (Cork).  When I was last in Ireland, my favourite was Beamish (I visited the brewery, poured myself several late morning pints at their tasting room, then went out for a fun lunch with a bunch of Germans I met during the visit).  Beamish is decidedly more hoppy (and, I think, flavourful) than Guinness, which isn't hoppy at all.  Murphy's is between Guinness and Beamish on the hoppiness scale.

You can find Guinness anywhere.  Murphy's and Beamish are common in the South, and much less common in the North.  And you basically can't find Beamish outside of Ireland (though at one point they were trying to push their Red Ale on the European continent).  So for 7 years I have been searching for, and dreaming of, having a Beamish stout, without success.

That is, until yesterday!  Hello, lover.  Sweet, refreshing bringer of stouty pleasure.  I grabbed a Beamish stout at a pub in Galway.  And you know, it's still pretty damned good.

Crazy, whipped cream-like head on the Beamish

I'm not convinced I'll randomly run into many more craft beer options in Ireland, but that's OK - the standard fare is pretty good.  I'll sample a couple of Irish Whiskeys if I get bored.  Unfortunately, beer and spirits are more expensive here than in Germany and Belgium (high taxes), which discourages wide-ranging tasting sessions.

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