Beer in Ireland

Beer in Ireland

Beer in Ireland is dominated by stout.

Brewing in Ireland has a long history, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century there were over two hundred breweries in the country, fifty-five of them in Dublin. During the nineteenth century the number of breweries fell to about fifty, and today only about 12.

Historically Ireland produced ale, without the use of hops as these are not native to Ireland. Even in the late 18th century hops were not used, when almost all other countries had adopted the use of them as an ingredient to preserve and flavour their beer.

Most beer was imported from England, Scotland and Wales in the eighteenth century. However in 1756 Arthur Guinness set up a small brewery, moving to Dublin in 1759. Having initially brewed bitter, he switched to producing porter, which was a style from London. Unlike the London beers he used some unmalted roasted barley, as this avoided tax (which was on malted barley only), making it more bitter and dry. In the early twentieth century Guinness became the largest brewer in the world, exporting the Irish style to many countries.

Lager brewing

The first lager brewery in Ireland was set up in Dartry, Dublin, in 1891, but did not survive very long. Lager was later brewed for a short period in Kells, in the Regal Brewery. Harp Lager has been brewed in Dundalk since 1960.

In 1959, the consumpution of lager in Ireland and United Kingdom was five times greater than the 1950s figure elsewhere, and the potential of brewing and marketing lager with a traditional continental character in the islands was realised.

Irish red ale

The ales produced in Ireland are now largely in the Irish red ale style, with a slight red colour, generally not very strong (although export versions are often stronger).


Stout brewed by Guinness (and the smaller brewers Murphy's and Beamish) dominated domestic beer consumption in Ireland, with lager (Harp Lager) and ale (Smithwick's, Macardle's and Cherry's) having much smaller shares. Much more recently (beginning in the 1990s) small, craft-brewing brewpubs such as the Franciscan Well Brewpub in Cork, the Biddy Early Brewery in County Clare and a number of small breweries in Dublin have started to brew and sell their own distinctive and popular beers. Dublin Brewpubs include Messrs Maguire on Burgh Quay and The Porter House on Parliament Street.




  • Protz, Roger. The Complete Guide to World Beer. ISBN 1-84442-865-6.

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