Some of the greatest upstart brewers have come up in the shadows of brewing giants. New Belgium, Avery and Oskar Blues helped make Colorado a craft beer center despite Coors and, later, MolsonCoors (TAP - Get Report) being headquartered right down the road. Schlafly and Urban Chestnut thrive in St. Louis after Anheuser-Busch's merger with InBev. Since 1989, Porterhouse Brewing has been spreading some of the craft beer spirit around Guinness' backyard by fooling around with Belgian recipes and tweaking beloved Irish styles. Porterhouse has since expanded a to brewery and four brewpubs in Ireland, another brewpub in London and yet another at the New York pub -- Fraunces Tavern -- where George Washington had a few beers with his officers to celebrate their victory over the British.
The smooth, light Irish Red style spawned many impostors across the pond -- hint, George Killian hasn't produced beer since 1956 and never produced any for Coors -- but the real deal still remains among the best. One of the longtime favorites is Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale, a style that falls between a warm-weather ale and a cellar-stored lager. Brewed by Guinness and distributed by Diageo, Kilkenny traces its origins back to Smithwick's brewery during the 14th century. The entire point of this beer is to have the sweetest, smoothest, most inoffensive brew imaginable in your glass to make you forget you're drinking a beer. Kilkenny accomplishes all of that with an almost vanilla aroma, a rich, creamy, toasted malt flavor and a nitrogen-infused texture similar to Guinness, but with little more than 4% ABV. It wasn't available here until 2009, however, and then only at the Dubliner Pub in Washington, D.C. It's availability has expanded somewhat, but drinkers should still consider themselves lucky if a local decides to carry it. 5. Smithwick's Irish Red
Where Kilkenny's history's gone, Smithwick's has followed. Smithwick's and Kilkenny were brewed on the site of a Franciscan abbey in Kilkenny, where monks had brewed since the 14th century. It wasn't until 1710 that John Smithwick and Richard Cole founded the brewery that it started producing the Irish Red Ale known and loved today. With lots of malt and a little hint of caramel, Smithwick's is almost still as it hits a drinker's tongue and smooth and light going down. While it feels almost devoid of carbonation, a pint of Smithwicks from a nitrogen tap can be as light and lovely as any stout and pairs as nicely with a Guinness as a proper Black and Tan. Though only 3.8% alcohol in Ireland, Smithwick's gets kicked up to 4.5% ABV in the states. Don't worry about finding some: Smithwick's was bought by Guinness in 1965 and is part of the Diageo family. If you find one, odds are the other is a tap beside it. 4. Franciscan Well Rebel Red
You're just not going to find this stateside, barring some St. Patrick's Day miracle. This craft brewery in Cork City, Country Cork, has been around since 1998 and is built on the site of a Franciscan monastery and well dating back to 1219, but it remains something of a local secret. Better known for producing stout aged in Jameson Irish Whiskey barrels, Franciscan Well takes it the other way with a mild red that sits at a manageable 4.3% ABV. Midle Fuggle and East Kent Goulding hops keep the aroma and flavor at bay, while the malt makes its as smooth a drink as its style implies. It seems only fair to recommend at least one trip to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day if you're that keen on having an Irish beer for the holiday. This brewery more than justifies the trip.