Irish Ale

Another post inspired by the Shannon Brewing Company interview, learn more about Irish Ale history, process, and why brewers like Shannon are devoted to this brewing heritage.


irish ale - Guinness beer kegs outside a pub in Kilkenny Ireland

Irish Ale

Home to Guinness, Murphy, Beamish and other world-renowned breweries, Ireland’s beer-brewing tradition stretches back for centuries. Through the years, the Irish beer industry has evolved in many intriguing ways, prompting the rise of many classic beers that are enjoyed by people around the world to this day. While many think of stouts and lagers when the subject of Irish beers arises, one style of beer in particular–Irish ale–is in a class of its own. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with this delectable, amber-colored brew, you’re in for a treat. Learn more about Irish ale and its crucial role in the history of beer brewing in Ireland to see what the fuss is all about.

A Brief History of Irish Beer

In the 1700s, Dublin, which had a population of around 70,000, was home to hundreds of small breweries and more than 1,500 taverns. Early that century, the country’s first large commercial brewery, Kilkenny, opened on the site of a former Franciscan abbey that had been brewing ale since the 1500s. Near the end of the 18th century, major breweries like Anchor Brewery and Guinness had opened along the River Liffey.

The 20th century saw major consolidation in the beer brewing industry in Ireland. Major brewers focused on porters and stouts, and small ale breweries struggled to survive. That changed in the 1950s, when the small brewers banded together to form Irish Ale Brewers. In 1965, they were bought by Guinness. For a while, keg ales gave stouts a run for their money, but both were ultimately overtaken by lagers.

Today, sales of ale from the Emerald Isle flourish around the world, with names like Beamish and Murphy now offering their own red ales.

Quick Facts About Irish Ale

Among Irish beers, red ale–as it is primarily known thanks to its red hue, which comes from the roasted barley that’s used in the brewing process–is a definite standout. Fairly light hopped and featuring a smoky flavor from the roasted barley, this ale typically has 4 to 5 percent alcohol by volume and tends to be darker and less hoppy than its English bitter counterparts.

Try it Today

Thanks to the massive explosion in the popularity of beer brewing in general, Irish ales are easy to find around the world. Small breweries around the U.S. offer their own spin on this timeless brew, so stop by your local brewpub and give it a try today.



Angela is always adding to her collection of countertop concoctions and basement brews. From beer to kombucha...if you can make it at home she's probably tried it.