Craft Beer In Ireland: The Best Irish Craft Beers, Breweries, And Pubs
Irish Craft Beer Guide
We’ve been traveling to Ireland for over 20 years, but it’s only been the last few years that we’ve started to research Irish craft beer. Sure, we still knock back a mess of Guinness during each trip. But, we’ve been researching how to find the best craft beer in Ireland to come up with this ultimate craft beer list.
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How To Find The Best Craft Beers
In this post, we share our tips on how to find the best craft beer in Ireland. This includes a history of brewing in Ireland, the rise of the craft beer movement, and of course how to taste! We include breweries and beer pubs across the island and in almost every county (okay, way more than half). The focus of this guide includes Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Limerick as well as top Irish beers from other counties as well.
This post is mostly focused on helping travelers to Ireland, but locals can certainly learn about craft beer in Ireland too!Traveling to Ireland? Check out our Ultimate Irish Packing Guide
The Rise Of Irish Microbreweries And Craft Breweries
In the 1990s, there really wasn’t a craft beer scene in Ireland. The big, commercial brewers (like Guinness) continued to fill the taps at pubs across the island (they still do). A change in beer taxes, which gave independent brewers tax rebates, changed all of that. Although Porterhouse opened its doors to become the first brew pub in Ireland in 1996, it hasn’t been an entirely uphill trajectory.
Although craft beer and Irish microbrews continue to grow in popularity there have been some setbacks over the years. Some of the early brewers have shut down in recent years, for a variety of reasons. Some brewers continue to struggle even while producing some amazing brews! When traveling to Ireland, try and drink local whenever possible to support the budding Irish craft beer community!
Irish Beer Styles
To understand some of the Irish craft beer styles, it helps to look at some of the more commercial brewers in Ireland. This includes the big guys such as Guinness and Smithwick’s.
Many of the Irish craft beers pick up on some of the more traditional Irish beer styles. Some of the best craft beers we’ve drank in Ireland are various stout or porter styles. This includes oatmeal stouts, milk stouts, and even nitrogenated stouts, or nitro beers. It’s no wonder that the stouts do well with the history of Guinness in Ireland.
The nitro style is most associated with Guinness. It is what makes Guinness settle the way it does. Several Irish microbreweries are starting to produce small batch nitro beers as well.
Many Americans associate Irish beer with Smithwick’s or even Killian’s Irish Red, which was popular in the 1990s. These are Irish red ales. An Irish red ale tends to be less bitter than an IPA but has a strong malty flavor. The red color comes from the malted barely used. This remains one of the most popular craft beer styles in Ireland.
Unfortunately for me I don’t seem to like red ales; Eric enjoys them more. I am not sure why. But, you are likely to find a wide variety of Irish red ale brands, both in bottle and on tap.
Irish Pale Ale
Another popular variety is the Irish Pale Ale, which is a European style beer, with the hoppiness of American IPAs. Not being a fan of IPAs in general, it’s hard for me to describe the difference to be honest.
Craft Breweries In Dublin Ireland
Craft beer in Dublin, Ireland is exploding, like it is across the island and in every major city in Europe. Of course, the most famous Dublin brewery is the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate. But there is more to Dublin beer than the famous Irish stout.
Porterhouse Brew Company In Dublin
I can’t fault a lawyer for giving up the law in favor of food and drink. In the 1980s, a former Irish barrister quit the law to open a brewery with his cousin in County Wicklow. This was the predecessor to Porterhouse Brewing Company in County Wicklow, just outside of Dublin. It’s one of the best craft beer brands in Ireland, and even has branches in London and New York. Their new 120 barrel state of the art brewery is located on the outskirts of Dublin to keep up with demand around Ireland and in 20 export markets.
Check out their Temple Bar location, which serves up all of their brews along with food. The pub opened in 1996, making it one of the earliest brew pubs in Ireland.
Porterhouse Brew Company, 16-18 Parliament Street is the in city location, but the brewery is on the outskirts of Dublin. At this time, they don’t offer tours at the brewery. They also own the Dingle Distillery and have whiskey bar in Dublin of the same name.
Rascals Brewing Company In Dublin
Emma and Cathal founded Rascals brewing in 2014 after developing a taste for craft beer while living in New Zealand. Rascals operates a taproom and pizza place in an industrial estate at the edge of Dublin. In the years since, they’ve come up with all sorts of interesting brews including mint chocolate stouts and vanilla milkshake IPAs, making it one of the more creative Irish craft brewers.
Rascals Brewing Company, Unit 5 Goldenbridge Industrial Estate Tyrconnell Road, located west of the Dublin city center. They are closed Monday and Tuesday.
Craft Beer Pubs In Dublin
There is no shortage of pubs with craft beer in Dublin. Check out these for a start:
Against The Grain, 11 Wexford Street, is one of the Galway Brewing Company bars in Dublin, which serves a variety of Irish and international craft beers as well as some local, artisan ciders and a full food menu.
The Brew Dock, 1 Amiens Street, is another Galway Brewing bar, near Connolly Station, with a food menu.
The Black Sheep, 61 Capel Street, is yet another bar from Galway Brewing, with a food menu.
Cost Of Beer In Dublin Pro Tip
Beer in Dublin is not cheap, whether that’s craft beer or commercial beer. Some of the worst prices are in the bars in and around Temple Bar. A pint of Guinness can run €6.50-7 a pint. This is about €2 more expensive than elsewhere in Ireland. Craft beer will be about the same, or even more. To save money, head to a more local Irish pub, which means out of Temple Bar. It’s the most touristy neighborhood to drink in Ireland.
Breweries In Cork Ireland
County Cork in the southwest of Ireland has one of the best craft beer scenes in the country. There are a two breweries in Cork City as well as a few spread around the county.
Also while in Cork City, check out the Cork Ale Trail, which includes one brewery, a bottle shop, and three of the most popular craft beer bars in Cork. The craft beer pubs include Abbot Ale House, 17 Devonshire Street, The Friary Bar Cork, 62 Shandon Street, Sunday’s Well, and The Bierhaus Cork, 28 Popes Quay, Shandon.
Franciscan Well Brewery Cork
Franciscan Well is one of the most well-known Irish craft breweries. You can find their beer around the country. They operate a tap room and offer tours and tastings.
Franciscan Well Brewery And Brewpub, 14 N Mall, Sunday’s Well Cork City. Cork Brewery Tours: Advanced booking required. Tours are held Sundays through Thursday at 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm.
Rising Sons Brewery Cork
Another option within this city is Rising Sons Brewery. They have a huge bar on Cornmarket Street with a sports bar vibe. Their lager won the best craft beer in Ireland at some point, but we preferred their Irish stout. That’s not surprising considering the history of Irish stout in Cork.
Rising Sons Brewery Cork Ireland, Cornmarket Street Cork. Cork Brewery Tours: A one hour brewery costs €12 and finishes with a tasting. Tours are offered seven days a week but must be booked in advance.Read Our Full Guide To Craft Beer In Cork
Craft Beer Breweries In County Cork
There are a handful of breweries outside of the city centre as well. These beers can be found at craft beer bars in Cork as well as throughout the country.
Blacks Of Kinsale Brewery
Started by alumni of Eight Degrees Brewery, Blacks of Kinsale is located just at the edge of the adorable seaside town of Kinsale. Look for their Blacks KPA, or Kinsale Pale Ale at bars in Kinsale and throughout Cork.
Blacks Of Kinsale, Farm Lane in Kinsale. Currently they do not have a tap room or offer tours, although both are in progress. Look for their beers and liquors in pubs all over Kinsale as well as in Cork City.
West Cork Brewing Company
West Cork Brewing is a boutique craft brewery from idyllic West Cork in the town of Baltimore. They are most well-known for the Irish dark red ale. For something a little more unique, look for their Coffee Oatmeal Chocolate Stout, which they call Breakfast in Baltimore, or try their Imperial Rum and Raisin Red Ale.
West Cork Brewing Company is in Baltimore, about 90 minutes southwest of the city center. They offer brewery tours on Fridays at 3pm for €12, but it is best to confirm in advance.
8 Degrees Brewing
Eight Degrees Brewing opened their Cork brewery in Ballyhoura in 2010. They offer a core range of beers and are constantly experimenting and creating new offerings for the Irish beer market. The name 8 Degrees refers to Ireland’s longitude, which also happens to be the perfect temperature to drink their beer. They produce a unique Irish red ale with flavors of toffee malt and orange.
Eight Degrees Brewing, Mitchelstown, about 45 minutes north of Cork City. They do not have a tap room nor do they offer craft brewery tours. A tap room is in the works. It’s easy to find their beers at pubs across Ireland, and they even export to Italy, France, and Belgium.
9 White Deer Brewery Cork
Located in West Cork, 9 White Deer Brewery is an award winning brewer of a wide range of Irish craft beer. They offer beers for all drinkers, including a gluten free IPA.
9 White Deer Brewery Cork, about an hour west of Cork City. The offer brewery tours for €15 for groups of 10 or more people with prior confirmation.
Galway Craft Beer
Galways is a university town, so it is known for a great Irish pub scene. It’s home to one of the most famous craft breweries in Ireland, Galway Bay. Galway Bay Brewing Company operates a dozen taprooms in Galway and throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland. Started in 2009, their goal is to bring craft beer to the masses, and they are doing a good job of it.
At their taprooms around the country, expect the majority of their taps to be from Galway Brewing although they often have a few others from Irish and international breweries. Look for their Full Sail IPA, Bay Ale Irish red ale, and Buried at Sea, which is their milk stout. Within Galway, look for their beers at Oslo Bar and Salt House, among others. Oslo Bar is the technical home of Galway Brewing.
Oslo Bar Galway, 226 Upper Salthill, a more contemporary beer hall style, with a food menu
Salt House, Raven Terrace, has an almost nautical feel, with 23 craft beers on tap, but no food menu
Craft Beer In Limerick Ireland
Limerick might not be the craft beer capital of Ireland, but it is our home away from home. It’s also home to one of the best craft beer bars in the country. This is why it warrants serious consideration for food and drink travelers to Ireland.
We’ve been traveling to Limerick to see family since 1999. In that time, we’ve drank a lot of Guinness at some of our favorite local bars, like Flannery’s on Wickham and Fennessy’s Pub. In recent years, though, some of the traditional Irish pubs started carrying craft beers, mostly due to the influence of Treaty City Brewing. There are also at least two bars dedicated to craft beer in Limerick. Galway Brewing has a taproom in Limerick called Wickham Tap, which has the feel of a dark, hipster hangout.
Mother Macs Limerick
One of the best craft beer bars in Ireland, though, has to be Mother Macs in the Market Quarter. The building dates to 1787 and is part of Limerick’s history. It opened in its current form in 2015 and has become a craft beer destination and popular local pub. In addition to typical Irish beers on tap, they regularly carry many of the Irish craft beers recommended on this list, including Treaty City, Yellow Belly, 8 Degrees, and Kinnegar. They also have an extensive selection of Irish whiskies and an incredibly knowledgeable staff.
Mother Macs Public House, 8/9 High Street in the Market Quarter, just up the road from the Limerick Milk Market. Check them out Wednesday night for wing night when they do a pint and wings from Volcano Wings across the way. They have the widest selection of craft beer in Limerick and pour one of the best pints of Guinness in Limerick.
Treaty City Brewing
Treaty City Brewery started in a small two bedroomed apartment. Today it is the only craft brewery in County Limerick producing artisan small batch beers. Handmade using the finest locally sourced ingredients to help support small indigenous enterprises. Each of their beers is named for something uniquely Limerick related. This includes the Harris Pale Ale named after Limerick-born actor Richard Harris and the Thomond Red Ale, named after nearby Thomond Park, which is home to Munster Rugby.
Treaty City Brewery, 24 & 25 Nichols Street, across from King John’s Castle in the Medieval Quarter. Tours are available for €16 with prior booking and end in a tasting of three craft beers.
Other Craft Breweries In Ireland
Although we don’t have suggested beers from every one of the 26 Irish counties, we are making a pretty decent dent. Here we include Irish breweries to visit as well as local breweries to track down at craft beer bars in Ireland. Put them together and you can pretty much plan your own Ireland beer tour. Here’s our Irish craft beer list beyond the larger cities.
Western Herd Brewing In County Clare
Aside from Limerick, we spend most of our time in Ireland in County Clare. Western Herd Brewing is brewing award-winning Irish craft beer on land once farmed by their great, great, great, great, great, grandfather. Located in Co. Clare along Ireland’s west coast and the use fresh Irish spring water. Their aim is to brew beers that bring out the characteristics of the land and spirit of Western Ireland.
I like that their labels pay homage to the western Ireland coastline. Look for Western Heard at McHugh’s Bar in Ennis and bottle shops including Next Door Off License in Kilkee.
Dungarvan Brewing Company In Waterford
Since 2010, Irish micro brewery Dungarvan Brewing Company has been brewing up a wide range of incredible Irish craft beers. Handmade in small batches, Dungarvan’s beers are vegan friendly as there are no isinglass finings in the brewing process.
Dungarvan brews a core range of beers as well as seasonal and one-off batches. They do not have a tap room. But, tours are available and include the brewing facility with a talk through ingredients, the brewing process and tasting of a range of their beers. Tours cost €15 and pre-arrangements are required.
Metalman Brewery Company In Waterford
Waterford is in Southern Ireland, between Cork and the east coast. Launched in 2011, Metalman Brewery Company offers a regular range and a series of seasonal and specialty beers. It’s named for a navigational aid located along the coast. Erected in 1823, the Metalman statue was installed after a ship ran aground. It’s an iconic feature on this part the Irish coastline. Metalman Brewing beers can be found in pubs throughout Waterford, Cork, and Dublin. Look for their art deco style taps.
Yellowbelly Beer in Wexford
Brewed in Wexford by lovers of beer. That’s what the folks over at Yellowbelly say is their motivation for producing their award winning Irish craft beer. All under the watchful eye Head Brewer Declan Nixon.
We were lucky enough to try a lot of Yellowbelly at Mother Macs during their tap takeover. I tried their Castaway passion fruit sour, maybe a little too much. Look for their beers at Grady’s Yard in Waterford and Simon Lambert & Son in Wexford, which is south of Dublin.
Kinnegar Brewing In County Donegal
I was drawn to Kinnegar Brewing by its can design, which is classic and cool, often featuring animals and nature. Donegal is a fairly isolated Irish county, in the far north on the border of Northern Ireland. Kinnegar started brewing quality Irish craft beer in 2013. The brewery is named after a nearby beach.
Look for their pale ale, rye ale, porter, and an American style IPA. They don’t filter or pasteurize their beer because they want to flavors to shine. I really liked their Swingletree Saison, which had a little bit of a sweet crispness to it. Look for Kinnegar beers at Rathmullan House Pub, with six Kinnegar taps. They offer tours for €10 but they must be booked in advance.
The White Hag in Sligo
Just south of Donegal is County Sligo, home to The White Hag. The brewery is named after an ancient Irish entity representing the all-seeing Mother Nature and brewed in Ballymote. They were the first brewery to open in Sligo in 50 years.
The White Hag doesn’t offer tours or have a tap room. Look for White Hag at The Swagman in Sligo town, which normally carries a wide variety of their beers. Try their dry hopped lemon sour, their Irish IPA, or their Brett IPA, which is aged in French oak barrels. For something even more unique, they’ve made an Irish Bog Ale and a Heather Ale. They do host an Irish Craft Beer Festival each July.
Brehon Brewhouse In County Monaghan
Brehon Brewery is a small rural brewery based in County Monaghan, which is one of the border counties, only a little more than an hour southwest of Belfast. Their goal is to create distinctive beers made with the deepest dedication to excellent. Brehon has offers both a core range of handcrafted beers as well as a few seasonals. If you come across their Crann Beatha Whiskey Aged Imperial Stout, try it. It’s like breakfast and dessert all rolled into one. There is a tap room at the brewery and they also offer tours and unique farm experiences.
Carlow Brewing Company In County Carlow
The Carlow Brewing Company in Moneybeg County Carlow produces under the name O’Hara’s. Carlow is also a border county between Belfast and Dublin. The O’Hara’s beer range focuses on traditional Irish beer styles, including an Irish red ale, Irish stouts, and Irish Pale Ales, as well as a variety of more creative craft beers and barrel aged brews.
They offer brewery tours on Friday afternoons by appointment only. Try their beers at their own pub Brewery Corner in Kilkenny, about 20 kilometers from the brewery. They pour their own beers as well as international craft beers.
Wicklow Wolf In County Wicklow
Beginning in 2014, Wicklow Wolf has been brewing a wide range of Irish craft beers, from their home on the east coast of Ireland, in Bray. This includes using high quality ingredients including hops from their own hop farm, the first commercial hop farm in Ireland in nearly 20 years. They offer brewery tours and tastings for €15, which can be arranged through their website. Look for their wolf marketing on taps and bottles at pubs across Ireland.
White Gypsy Brewery In Tipperary
Founded in 2009, White Gypsy Brewery can trace its origins back to a single pint of cask ale poured at Heathrow Airport in 1993. After a long journey and weathering the Irish Recession of 2008-2011, today White Gypsy is brewing up some of Ireland’s best craft beer. With its state of the art brewery in County Tipperary, White Gypsy is focused on brewing traditional styles of beer.
Having a vision to grow its business locally and organically, White Gypsy has built a loyal following of craft beer drinkers. In addition to traditional ales, they have been uber creative with barrel aging and vintage brews for pure craft beer aficionados. They offer tours and tastings by calling the brewery in advance.
Reel Deel Brewery In County Mayo
I might not be an Irish blonde, but for some reason was drawn to this bottle. Reel Deel Brewery in Crossmolina, County Mayo, is an Irish micro brewery that produces fantastic, full flavored craft beers. Since 2014 Reel Deel has been focused on producing outstanding local ales using the best handpicked local ingredients. They offer viewings by appointment through their website.
Black Donkey In Roscommon
County Roscommon is located just north and east of Galway. Black Donkey Brewing is run by a husband and wife team. They learned about craft beer while living in New York and returned home to share what they learned. Started in 2014, their goal is to produce quality craft beer in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. Look for their characteristic taps with cartoons of donkeys, no surprise there.
Artisan Cider In Ireland
Much like the role Guinness plays in Irish beer drinking, so does Bulmer’s when it comes to cider. I am not a huge cider fan, particularly the commercial and industrial brands like Bulmer’s. They are just too sweet for me.
There are a handful of artisan cider producers in Ireland who are offering alternatives. Many are using local apples and producing small-batch, high quality ciders. These taste naturally sweet and refreshing.
Recommended Cider Producers
The Longueville House Hotel in Mallow, County Cork, is producing artisan cider as well as apple brandy. Dan Kelly’s Cider from County Louth is producing cider from hand-picked apples from their family orchard an hour north of Dublin. Craigies Irish Craft Cider is from County Wicklow. They’ve been using nothing but 100% Irish grown apples since 2012.
Longways Irish Craft Cider is from County Tipperary and they are a Gold Medal winning producer of Irish Craft Cider. Their farm is surrounded by nature and home to sixteen Irish honeybee colonies that pollinate the entire orchard. That’s local! For something super unique, check out their Elderflower Cider, which is actually pink!
Planning A Visit To Ireland
Looking to plan a tour to Ireland but don’t want to plan it yourself? I totally understand. Overall, Ireland is an easy place to travel to, particularly because they speak English. But, here are some travel tips to make the most of your stay.
Insurance: We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance for every international trip you take. You never know and it is better to be safe than sorry. This is particularly true if renting a car or doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Ireland. They offer immediate quotes so you know the cost and coverage immediately. Check out World Nomads here.
Rental Cars: In order to see the best of the island, though, you need to hit the open roads. If looking to rent a car, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal. Some travelers don’t like the idea of renting a car in Ireland, though, because they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. It can be a challenge, particularly on narrow and windy roads.
Recommended Group Tour: As an alternative, we recommend booking a tour through Intrepid Travel. They offer an 8 day tour of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The tour visits Dublin, Belfast, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, and even the Aran Islands. Check out the full itinerary here. We took an Intrepid Tour in Morocco and we would definitely recommend them if you want to book a group tour.
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Craft Beer In Ireland: The Best Irish Craft Beers, Breweries, And Pubs
We drank a lot of Irish craft beer to create this list. And, it was a sacrifice, considering our love affair with a fine pint of Guinness. We will be updating this list after each trip to Ireland in the future with a goal of hitting all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland.
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