When you think of Ireland, one of the first things you might think of is beer. And for many, they think of Guinness, a stout beer that has been brewed in Ireland since 1759. Interestingly enough, only 32% of the beer sold in Ireland today is stout. But even though stout’s popularity has waned, Guinness still remains the single best selling drink in the country.
Ireland has been brewing beer for centuries and there were over 200 breweries in Ireland in the mid-1800s. Today, there are only 12, but beer is still an important product to the Irish economy. Three main kinds of beer are produced and consumed in Ireland today. They include lager, stout and Irish ales.
When it comes to lager, Heineken Ireland is noted to have the largest share of the market. Harp Lager, originally brewed by Guinness, but now owned by Diageo, is one of the popular varieties in Ireland as well.
Irish ales have the smallest market share, but offer a few notable microbreweries. A few of the more popular companies include Franciscan Well Brewpub, Porterhouse and Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne. They’ve grown in popularity in the past decade or so.
Of course, when it comes to Irish beer, what we really want to know about is stout, the true traditional beer of Ireland. Guinness is the largest brewer and its beer is actually brewed in nearly 50 countries. According to Wikipedia, 18 billion U.S. pints of Guinness are sold each year. Murphy’s and Beamish have a respectable share of the market in Ireland.
For those who enjoy a good stout, they know exactly what it’s all about it, but for the uninitiated, there are some misconceptions. Many people think that stout is a heavy beer. Interestingly enough, at 198 calories per pint, it has fewer calories than many “light” beers. It also has lower alcohol content than just about any type of beer. Stout is dark because of the dark roasted barley, not its malt content. The thick texture of stout is also a source of confusion and furthers the myth about it being a heavy beer. Instead of using carbon dioxide for carbonation, brewers of stout use nitrogen, which gives it a thick texture.
Adding to the intrigue, stout may have some health benefits too. Old advertisements claimed, “Guinness is good for you,” because some people reported to feel good after drinking it, but the ability to make such claims has been outlawed and the ad campaign was stopped. A more recent study in Wisconsin found that the consumption of stout in dogs appeared to slow down blood clotting, essential for continued heart health. Stout appears to have antioxidant compounds that aid in the maintenance of heart health. Of course, none of the brewers of stout make any type of medical or health claims with their products, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Beer has a long-standing tradition in Ireland and it’s likely to continue long into the future. While preferences may change, it’s clear that its cultural history continues to play a big role in its preference in malt beverages.