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Food & Drink

What's Brewing: Raise a toast to Irish beers

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 9:48 a.m.
Guiness Draught and Harp Lager
Guiness Draught and Harp Lager

Ireland has as lush a history of beer brewing culture as it does green scenery of rolling hills. The earliest Irish breweries refraind from the use of hops due to the plant not being a native species. By the mid 1700s, however, Ireland was importing English hops in excess of 500 tons annually to fulfill the massive demand for Irish beer, and the resulting increase in production.

This booming demand for bubbly brews can be traced back to a decision by the Irish Parliament that deemed whiskey to be the more dangerous alcoholic beverage thus encouraging brewers, through a reduction in taxes, to produce more beer. Nearing the end of the 1700s, the Royal Dublin Society honored those brewers producing the most beer with a prestigious award. By 1814, Ireland was exporting more beer to England than it was importing.

Arguably the most popular exported Irish beer today is a dry stout first produced in 1756 by a man named Arthur Guinness. Guinness beer was first brewed in Dublin as a porter, a style already well known in England. By the early part of the 20th century, this stout's famous flavor was honed to perfection, and Guinness had become the largest brewery in the world.

Irish stouts pour dark and are almost black in color. They offer aromas and flavors of roasted coffee and dark chocolate and are typically served nitrogenated, which creates a silky texture and a creamy head that lasts. Contrary to popular belief, they are remarkably low in calories (around 100 per 12 ounces), as well as alcohol, rarely exceeding 5% ABV.

In addition to Irish stouts, the popularity of Irish red ales and Irish lagers has grown around the world too. Since its first brewing in 1968, Harp has become the other staple among Irish beers. It offers a clean and refreshing taste for consumers who desire a beer with a simpler profile.

St. Patrick's Day's shamrocks and glittering parades have helped fuel the legacy of Irish brewing for decades, and will continue to do so as more and more millennials are embracing craft brews rich in history and flavor over the gimmicks of green food coloring in domestic beers.

In recent years, various mixed drinks, which combine both Irish spirits and Irish beer have become increasingly popular. The Irish Boilermaker is ½ ounce of Irish cream, ½ ounce of Irish whiskey poured into a 12-ounce dry stout. A Black Velvet is 6 ounces of Irish stout combined with 6 ounces of Champagne. Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition is a blended Irish whiskey aged in Irish craft beer-seasoned barrels.

Find Irish ales on tap locally and at your distributor year round.

Guinness Ltd.

Guinness Draught

Irish dry stout (ABV 4.2%). Pours dark brown almost black in color. Creamy tan head with lasting retention. Aromas of roasted malt and coffee are subtle. Silky mouth feel, slight bitterness with tastes of semi-sweet chocolate, burnt toast and roasted malt. Light body with mild nitrogenated carbonation. Finishes dry with a muted, roasted malt aftertaste.

Guinness Ltd.

Harp Lager

European pale lager (ABV 5%). Pours light yellow with a small fizzy head. Aromas of cracker, biscuit, light honey. Tastes of bread, floral, nuttiness. Light body with medium carbonation. Finishes dry, clean and crisp.


Smithwick's Brewery / Irish Ale Breweries Ltd.

Smithwick's Ale

Irish red ale (ABV 4.5%). Pours dark amber color with a moderate off-white color head. Aroma is sweet, malt and molasses. Flavors of roasted malt, nutty, caramel and bread with a slight bitterness. Light body and mildly carbonated. Subdued taste of coco on the finish.

Murphy Brewery Ireland Limited

Murphy's Irish Stout

Irish dry stout (ABV 4%). Pours dark brown with a thick cream colored head. Warmed up a bit presents a bouquet of roasted malt, smoke and bitter chocolate. Flavors of bitter light roasted coffee and bakers chocolate. Light to medium body with mild carbonation. Finishes dry, slightly bitter.

Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer and the author and illustrator of "Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers." Reach him at

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