Forget Green Beer—2 Beer Styles with Actual Irish Roots

By Heather Galanty

There are two main beer styles that we typically think of in connection with the Emerald Isle: dry stout and red ale. Stouts are an offshoot of the porter family, and originally the word “stout” was used to refer to a stronger version of a porter.

The most famous Irish-style dry stout, of course, is Guinness, which serves as the template for most modern stouts, but Arthur Guinness actually began by brewing ales and porters. It wasn’t until 1819, with the introduction of Daniel Wheeler’s black “patent” malt, that stouts began to be brewed. The words “dry” or “Irish” are often tacked on to “stout” in order to differentiate it from English and American sweet or milk stouts, which usually contain oatmeal or lactose.

There is a bit of contention surrounding the Irish-Style Red style, with some debate as to its historical past and true characteristics. We are told that the Celtic ales brewed in Ireland in the Middle Ages had a recognizably red tinge, although the modern version of what we consider the “Irish-style red ale” is most likely very different from the style of this early account.

Traditionally, Irish red ales focus on strong malt flavors with slight nuttiness and light hoppiness. This style seems to have originated with the birth of Smithwick Brewery in 1710 in Kilkenny, Ireland. Today, red ales enjoy more popularity in the U.S. than Ireland, and despite the style’s unclear origins and somewhat contentious history, I think we can agree that it’s a darn good beer.

This Saint Patrick’s Day, deviate from the stereotypical green beer and try a craft-brewed dry stout or red ale. A few tasty examples of these two styles are listed below.

Irish-Style Dry Stout

Irish-style dry stouts are black in color, typically with an SRM of 35-40. Their character is mostly defined by coffee-like roasted barley and a roasted malt aroma. Despite the focus on malt, hop bitterness is typically medium to medium high. Dry stouts are often served from nitrogen taps, which create a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

Irish Red Ales

Irish Red Ales are usually well balanced and are brewed with a moderate amount of kilned malts and roasted barley to give them their reddish hue. This style may contain adjuncts such as corn, rice and sugar, which help dry out the finish and lessen the body. Low roasted notes can be present thanks to the use of roasted barley in the grain bill. With notes of caramel and toffee, this style can be reminiscent of lightly toasted and buttered bread.

Heather Galanty is a recent transplant to Colorado from Detroit, and former Craft Beer Program intern at the Brewers Association. Other than craft beer, she enjoys traveling, reading, crocheting and outdoor adventuring.

Read more from Heather Galanty

Tags: