Is there a country more associated with one particular beer than Ireland is with Guinness? Like most beer drinking folk, we like a drop of the black stuff, but the country has far more to offer the beer drinker and, with St Patrick’s Day looming, now is as good a time as any to try out some of those alternatives.
As is the case with most brewing nations, the craft ale scene is in full flow, meaning you can stretch your taste buds way beyond the confines of more traditional styles to enjoy just about any type of beer you care to think of.
The biggest obstacle to getting your chops around some of the more diverse brews is their availability in the UK. There’s scant choice among the more mainstream retailers, and even at specialist suppliers you’ll find beers frequently drift in and out of stock.
KMW Wine and Honest Brew are among the most reliable online suppliers of Irish beers, often being the first to bring new products to the attention of the British public, but with a bit of perseverance and patience you should also be able to unearth some Irish gems from elsewhere.
In this list we’ve sought out the best of the beers that you’re most likely to find online, from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so if you’re looking for an Irish alternative to Guinness then this selection is the perfect place to start…
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Galway Bay, Althea, 4.8%
If you’re after a few cans to chug for an evening session then this American pale ale from the outstanding Galway Bay Brewery will serve you well. It’s a smooth and fresh tasting brew, loaded with grapefruit and orange flavours, with both a juicy sweetness and pithy bitterness in evidence. Full enough to hit you with flavour from the first sip while maintaining a breezy lightness that allows for repeat pouring.
Kinnegar Big Bunny, 6%
Kinnegar produces beers that get the craft ale cognoscenti frothing with delight and this New England IPA has the kind of juicy flavours that are currently much in demand. It’s a hazy golden brew with a creamy texture and fat wodges of fruity flavours, from sweet pineapple and peach to zesty grapefruit and orange. If you want to be in with the ‘in crowd’ then pop a few of these hoppy bunnies in your basket.
Whitewater Helles Lager, 4.2%
Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains provide the setting for the Whitewater Brewery and its range of beers have been steadily growing since they started in business back in 1996. This lager would go down well on a hot, sunny day – it’s unfussy and refreshing, with some soft bready grain character and a few light floral touches to the subtle earthy hops. Serve extra cold and pray for the sun.
Heaney Dark Season, 5%
Heaney Farmhouse Brewery produces an excellent stout, but for those who want something darkly different they’ve conjured up this unusual spiced saison. It’s got the kind of toasty malts you expect from a dark beer, but there are other flavours at play too – with a berry tang, some zesty freshness and gingery spice among them. An interesting option for a cosy evening of fireside sipping.
Farmageddon Wee Gold, 4.2%
This pale ale from Northern Ireland is a great option for anyone who wants to enjoy a burst of fruity hops without heavy duty bitterness barging in on the scene. It’s a light beer with a soft feel and some biscuity malts in evidence, while those hops will lend it enough tropical and grapefruit flavours to help make it an extremely gluggable beer.
Guinness Hop House 13 Lager, 4.6%
If you've not yet tried Guinness’ foray into the world of lager then we recommend you do, because Hop House 13 is a decent brew. Behind a prickly carbonation lies a fair amount of grainy malt flavours that are backed up with some earthy hopping – and being a mainstream product, you should have little problem tracking it down.
Eight Degrees, The Full Irish, 6%
Ireland lies at a longitude of eight degrees west, which was the inspiration for this brewery’s name, and it’s home grown barley that stars in its Full Irish Single Malt IPA. That barley gives it a grainy biscuit background while ripe melon, tinned peaches and some citrus sharpness give it a full fruitiness. There’s also a good whack of bitterness at the finish, lingering long with that malty base.
M&S Irish Stout, 4.5%
If you’re looking to pick up a supermarket alternative to Guinness then call in at M&S for a bottle of their Irish stout, made on their behalf by Carlow Brewing. It looks suitably black in the glass and is topped with a handsome tan head, while there are all the sweet and toasty malt flavours you would expect from a stout and a decently dry, bitter finish to round things off.
The White Hag the puca dry hoppen lemon sour, 3.5%
If you’re a fan of sour beers then this can from Co Sligo’s The White Hag will have you sucking your cheeks with glee. It’s like drinking lemon juice that has been given a beer makeover with a hint of fresh hops and a mild injection of booze. Extra tasty and soured to the max.
Porterhouse Plain Porter, 4.2%
In recent times porter has been a much abused beer style, subjected to all manner of unusual flavours and often served so thick you wonder why it doesn’t come with a spoon. If you crave a simpler, lighter porter then Porterhouse’s Plain Porter should fit the bill. It’s a toasty brew with a slight fruity tartness and subtle bitterness to finish – plain, simple and all the better for it.
The verdict: Irish beers
There are, perhaps rather predictably, some excellent dark beers in this list but our pick of the Irish beers is Galway Bay’s outstanding pale ale, Althea.
We’ve also found some of the best beer and cider subscription boxes so that you can enjoy the different beers from around the glove without stepping foot out of your front door
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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