12 Irish Beers You Can Buy in the US

12 Irish Beers You Can Buy in the US

There’s a liturgical reason people originally tended to drink so much on St. Patrick’s Day: While the date of Easter, and thus the 40-day span of Lent, which precedes it, changes every year according to the lunar calendar, Ireland’s quintessential holiday always falls within that period of supposed fasting and abstinence. But in Irish Catholicism, there was a long tradition of suspending the strictures of Lent for that one day in honor of Ireland’s patron saint — and that meant party time!

The association of St. Patrick’s Day with alcohol has since been practically institutionalized, even (especially?) among those who don’t know Lent from lint. While Irish whiskey is certainly part of the festivities, the occasion is traditionally marked, above all, with beer. According to NIQ, Nielsen’s database of consumer buying patterns, in 2018 (the latest year for which data is available), beer sales in bars and restaurants in America were 174% higher on March 17 than on an average day, with the cities of Boston and Chicago showing the highest increases (both have large Irish-American populations). And that’s not counting all the beer consumed at home.

Nobody tracks just how much of that beer is Irish in origin, but chances are it’s a pretty large percentage, and of that, a great deal is undoubtedly Ireland’s most famous brew, Guinness Stout. It’s said that about 13 million pints of this dark, creamy beer are consumed worldwide on March 17 each year. (To help ameliorate the effects of all that beer, consider taking this culinary tour of Irish foods perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.)

There’s more to Irish beer than just Guinness, though. While many examples, especially from smaller craft breweries, are not imported here, there are definitely some tasty possibilities. To assemble a list of a dozen of them (including three versions of the unavoidable Guinness), 24/7 Tempo researched availability through the nationwide Total Wine & More chain and other retail outlets, then sampled them for tasting notes.

Note that there may be other made-in-Ireland beers available in certain parts of the country (including other Guinness variations), and that a number of American breweries produce beers labeled “Irish Red” or something similar. Many of them are very good and convincingly Irish in style — but why not hold out for one or more examples of the real thing?

Scroll down to read about 12 Irish beers you can buy in the U.S.

Forged Irish Stout

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  • ABV: 4.20%
  • Price: $8.99 (4 16-oz. cans)

Last year, Irish-born MMA star Conor McGregor bought Dublin’s Porterhouse Brewery, and now oversees the production there of this obviously Guinness-inspired stout, dark, creamy, and smooth, with a roasted malt character and suggestions of chocolate and espresso in the full-bodied flavor.

Guinness Draught

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Guinness includes a device that gives the beer a draught-like head of foam when it’s poured into a glass.
  • ABV: 4.20%
  • Price: $10.99 (6 11-oz. bottles)

This isn’t really a draught (draft) beer, of course, since it’s sold in bottles and cans, but Guinness invented a “draught-flow” widget that sits in those bottles and cans and gives the beer a semblance of a draught-like head of foam when it’s poured. And what’s poured is a classic — dark, smooth, and rich, with a creamy mouth-feel and a delicious toasty flavor.

Guinness Extra Stout

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Guinness is known for its stout beers, but has a rainbow of flavors.
  • ABV: 5.60%
  • Price: $11.49 (6 11-oz. bottles)

A beautifully balanced stout, with slightly less of a head than with the Guinness Draught, but a nice, faintly smoky aroma and plenty of flavor, with hints of coffee, dried fruit, and brown sugar.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

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  • ABV: 7.50%
  • Price: $8.99 (4 12-oz. bottles)

The original Extra Stout’s big brother, this one is higher in alcohol and has more hoppy bitterness threading through its rich, lightly sweet flavor.

Harp Lager

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  • ABV: 4.50%
  • Price: $10.99 (6 11-oz. bottles)

Proof that Guinness can do a lighter style beer as well as its intense, dark stouts, Harp boasts a bright golden color, an attractive nose of fruit and hops, and a good balance of bitterness, acidity, and spice reminiscent of German lagers. You’ll see this one on the table at a lot of Indian restaurants in Ireland and the U.K.


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  • ABV: 0.50%
  • Price: $11.99 (6 12-oz. bottles)

An almost-non-alcoholic beer from Guinness, light but not insipid, with a nice yeasty, malty flavor, Kaliber is regularly hailed, with good reason, as one of the most drinkable of low-proof beers.

Murphy’s Irish Stout

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  • ABV: 4.00%
  • Price: $6.99 (4 15-oz. cans)

The main competitor to Guinness in Ireland, especially in the south (it’s brewed in Cork), Murphy’s is a little sweeter and a little softer than Guinness, medium in body, and full of creamy coffee-and-chocolate flavor.

O’Hara’s Irish Red

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  • ABV: 4.30%
  • Price: $11.99 (4 11-oz. bottles)

Irish-style red beer gets its dark coppery color from a good dose of kiln-heated malted barley (red ale is first mentioned as long ago as the ninth century in Ireland). Hops are noticeable here but take a back seat to a nicely caramelized malt character, with some pleasant fruity sweetness.

O’Hara’s Irish Stout

Dark stout beer ice cream float, dessert idea for St Patricks day
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Dark stout beer ice cream float, drink and dessert idea for St Patricks day

Getting really creative can mean making an ice cream float with beer.
  • ABV: 4.30%
  • Price: $13.99 (4 11-oz. bottles)

Said to be based on an older style of Irish stout, this is a real mouthful of beer, rich and thick, with both hops and malt appearing vividly, and suggestions of caramel, coffee, and toasted oats.

Smithwick’s Red Ale

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  • ABV: 3.80%
  • Price: $10.99 (6 11-oz. bottles)

On the mild side compared to the O’Hara’s Irish Red, the Smithwick’s has a malty sweetness with understated but still noticeable hops and a medium-rich mouth-feel.

Sullivan’s Irish Gold

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  • ABV: 5.20%
  • Price: $13.99 (4 14-oz. cans)

This accessible pale ale has a nice reddish-gold color, a malty nose, and hint of English toffee character, and balances its slight sweetness with low-key hops, finished clean and not at all cloying.

Sullivan’s Maltings Irish Ale

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  • ABV: 5.00%
  • Price: $13.99 (4 14-oz. cans)

A red ale that’s more amber than coppery in color, this one shows an intense nose with some hints of caramel and dried figs, then follows up with a caramelized malty sweetness and suggestions of roasted nuts, sharpened with good hops character and finishing dry. (If you’d like to sample our own country’s brews, these are the 40 most delicious beers in the US.)

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