When it comes to Irish beer, your natural inclination is likely to order a Guinness. That’s fine. It’s classic, has a strong tradition of proper pouring and drinking techniques, and you can find it nearly anywhere. But there’s a world of Irish-style American craft beer out there to explore, and they’re not all stouts.
There’s Irish red ales, for example. Irish reds are close to American red ales, but rely more on malty sweetness than hoppy bitterness. Then there are Irish cream ales, which are easy-drinking, light- bodied ales similar to pale ales. You don’t have to book a flight to Ireland to get a taste, either. You can find good Irish-style beers produced in the United States.
Here are the seven top American-made Irish red ales and Irish cream ales to try.
Bob’s First from Magic Hat Brewing Company
A deep ruby red ale in the glass made with English top-fermenting yeast. There’s a bit of a brown sugar flavor as well as fresh baked bread. It’s reliable with some malty sweetness and medium carbonation, perfect whether you’re staying inside because of the cold or enjoying the great outdoors.
Rivet Irish Red Ale from Tin Man Brewing Company
Tin Man started in 2012 in Evansville, Indiana, with a mission to make sustainable beers with minimal waste and maximal taste — which is exactly what to expect from the Rivet Irish Red Ale. It’s caramel and sweet without being cloyingly so, with a subtle bitter-hop ending balancing it out.
Irish Cream Ale from Shannon Brewing Company
Shannon Brewing labels its Irish cream as the company’s “modern take on an ancient Irish recipe.” The brewing process starts with ale yeast then transitions to a secondary fermentation with lager yeast, giving the beer a crisp, dry, and refreshing finish.
Irish Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company
Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing labels its Irish Ale as a spring seasonal that’s a “Midwestern tribute to the legendary red ales of old Ireland.” It’s heavy on the malt bill — six different roast levels — which gives the beer its reddish color. It’s slightly sweet and bready with just a touch of bitter to round it all out.
Irish Setter Red Ale from Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
Thirsty Dog Brewing’s home city of Akron, Ohio, is 12 percent Irish-American, but their Irish Setter Red keeps it 100. There’s a balance of mild flavors from sweet to bitter that makes it a clean, refreshing beer for any occasion.
Conway’s Irish Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company
This beer is “a pint for Pa Conway,” one of the co-owner’s policeman grandfathers. In terms of flavor, it’s reliable, with toasted bread notes and caramel malt. Slightly bitter hop notes come in at the end.
Lucky SOB Irish Red Ale from Flying Dog Brewery
Lucky SOB is a little less carbonated than some of the other Irish red ales on this list. After a while in the glass it can almost start to look like a slightly off-color red wine. But it definitely doesn’t taste like a red wine. It’s bready with some caramel and fruit notes. There’s also some sweet honey in there, too. The 5.5 percent alcohol by volume is almost non-existent in the flavor.