It is said that an Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass and not fall off the face of the earth. And since there are no confirmed news reports of an Irishman falling off the face of our planet, this can only mean that no one can beat the Irish at the drinking game.
If you like your beer, the place to savour its different varieties is definitely Europe. However, the rich, dark Irish stout is the crowning glory of beers across the continent. And it holds place of pride in pubs across Ireland. In fact don’t be surprised to walk into a pub and see the locals drink their beer as if it were a liquid supplement to their dietary requirement.
The Omnipresent Presence of Guinness
Guinness is synonymous with Irish beer and you can almost hear it flex its strong muscles to welcome you with a warm hug the moment you step into any Irish bar. Its dark hue notwithstanding, this is a surprisingly light beer and will not weigh you down – depending of course on how many pints you have downed! But don’t let this classic brew overawe you, because there are several other equally stellar beers you can try. The other popular Irish brews include Harp, a crisp, light lager and Murphy’s Amber, a light ale. If you are adventurous, then sip on the Kilkenny, a red ale that has a distinct sweet malty taste.
Of course, the Irish know that not everyone likes beer, but who can say no to cider? That is why most Irish watering holds have Bulmers Cider, a sweet and hard cider that is served with copious amounts of ice.
Getting to the Root of the Brews
The Irish are justified in being proud of their beer, they also take immense pride in showcasing the preparation of the brew. If you truly want to appreciate the culture of beer in Ireland, plan your itinerary in a way that you can spare a few days to visit the various microbreweries in the country. Many of these boutique breweries organise beer appreciation tours where you can sample their local brews. The best place to begin your beer trail would be Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Located in the heart of the St. James’s Gate Brewery, it has even found a place on Ireland’s must-visit tourist spots. A visit to the brewery itself is not possible, but a guided tour of the storehouse will shed an interesting light into the country’s beer culture and history. Since no beer tour is complete without tasting, chug down some of their beers at the Gravity Bar while taking in the panoramic view over Dublin.
You can then go southwards to the small, but busy, Carlow Brewing Company in Carlow. You will need to call them in advance and request for a tour that coincides with their production schedule. If you are lucky to get this opportunity, you can sample several of their beer varieties, including a stout, wheat beer and red ale that are brewed using traditional Celtic methods.
Further south is the St. Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny. Probably the oldest brewery started by monks in medieval times, you can sign up with Smithwick, which offers exclusive brewery tours of this brewery. Not only can you get a chance to see the Brewhouse where Smithwick’s is actually brewed but you can also visit the stunning 13th century St. Francis Abbey, which sits on the site of the brewery.
These are but some of the famous breweries in Ireland, and every city boasts of its own microbreweries with their own craft beer. Research well before you plan your visit to Ireland. It will be a shame if you miss out on visiting these landmarks of the brewing industry, that have received critical acclaim the world over. The Irish add an element of rusticity to everything they touch – be it their poignant poetry, their fervor for contact sports or their passion for their brew. This country gave birth to Stout beer that resonates with craic or bonhomie, bravado and camaraderie; just like the Irish!