5 Great Irish Breweries That Aren't Guinness

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Ireland produces and drinks far too much beer to be beholden to any one brewery.

Apologies, once again, to Arthur Guinness, but a certain brewery in Dublin best known for producing a trademark dry Irish stout is far from the only one Ireland has to offer. According to the Irish Brewers Association, Ireland is the 33rd-largest beer producer in the world and is the 12th-largest in the European Union. It brews 2% of Europe's beer despite hosting only 0.8% of its population.

It brews much bigger than its weight as well. Despite having a population of fewer than 6.4 million, Ireland brews a whopping 6.7 million barrels of beer each year -- more than a barrel for every man, woman and child in Ireland. Demand isn't quite that great in Ireland, but it's still substantial: Every Irish adult drinks 24 gallons of beer per year, on average, with 70% of that brew made in Ireland itself.

That's four gallons more than the average U.S. beer drinker typically consumes annually. Unless you live in Delaware (25 gallons per year), Iowa (25.4), Louisiana (24.2), Maine (25.4) Nebraska (24.4), Nevada (26.2), New Hampshire (31.9), North Dakota (30.6), South Carolina (24.2), South Dakota (26.9), Vermont (25.9) or Wisconsin (26.2), you're not enjoying beer with anywhere near the frequency of your Irish counterparts. Not bad for a nation of people with a population smaller than New York City.

So why restrict St. Patrick's Day or any other day to any one Irish beer? There is no "official beer of St. Patrick's Day." It's a religious holiday with no more traditional ties to beer than Hannukah or Halloween.

Even if St. Patrick's Day did have an official beer, it's not what Guinness might like you to believe. As much as beer drinkers may love what the nitrogenated dry stout has done for Irish-style pubs and low-alcohol drinking sessions, it makes up less than 1% of the U.S. beer market and is less than a third of the beer drunk in Ireland. With Ireland now producing copious amounts of Heineken out of the Murphy's brewery in Cork, European light lagers have become a force among those not reaching for stout, ciders or spirits.

Of course, there are also a whole bunch of breweries in Ireland that aren't Guinness. Those breweries have a wide array of offerings and have thrived in the shadow of Ireland's biggest brewer. Here are just five that warrant your attention around this time of year:

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