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5 Great Irish Breweries That Aren't Guinness

3. Franciscan Well

It used to require a St. Patrick's Day miracle to find this stateside, but U.S. beer lovers are about to see a lot more of it in the near future.

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 was something of a local secret until recently. Better known for producing stout aged in Jameson Irish Whiskey barrels, Franciscan Well also 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.

Though its Shandon Stout and Rebel Red make up its Irish core, other offerings including a blonde, lager and wheat round out a fairly simple array of offerings that doesn't seem like the kind of spread to make waves abroad. Just the right executive must have popped into Cork for a pint at some point, as MolsonCoors snatched up the brewery and its brands last year. The North American megabrewer says it plans to leave Franciscan Well to its own devices and let it brew as it sees fit, but also plans to build the brewer a larger brewery and export its brands to the U.S. and Canada.

It basically wants to give it what Carlow and Porterhouse have, only with big corporate backing. That's great for U.S. drinkers who haven't had a taste of the brewery's beers as of yet, but not so wonderful for "craft" beer lovers trying to help out an independent. The beer still stands on its own merits, but is no more independent of MolsonCoors than Guinness is of Diageo.

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