Guinness vs Murphy's vs Beamish: Which is Best?

Guinness vs Murphy's vs Beamish: Which is Best? We give our opinion along with what real drinkers are saying



12/12/20235 min read

clear drinking glass with black liquid
clear drinking glass with black liquid

Guinness vs Murphy's vs Beamish: Which is Best?

Irish stouts have long held a revered place in the world of beer, known for their rich, distinctive flavours and deep cultural roots. Among the pantheon of these dark brews, Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish stand out as the flagbearers. But which of these iconic Irish stouts can be crowned the best? The answer, as with many things in life, is not black and white – or should we say, dark and creamy?


  • A Taste of Ireland: Introduce the concept of Irish stout, its historical significance, and its enduring popularity both in Ireland and across the globe.

  • The Contenders: Present Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish as the subjects of this comparison, setting the stage for a detailed exploration of each.

  • Subjectivity of Taste: Acknowledge the inherently subjective nature of determining the "best" stout, emphasizing that personal preference plays a significant role.

Guinness: The Iconic Dublin Stout

  • Historical Backdrop: Delve into the origins of Guinness, tracing its roots back to 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. Highlight how Guinness has grown from these humble beginnings to become a global phenomenon.

  • Flavour Profile: Describe Guinness’s unique flavour, characterized by a burnt quality that resonates with those who favour a more robust beer. Mention the traditional method of using roasted, unmalted barley to achieve its distinctive taste.

  • Popularity and Perception: Cite Steve Basile, a publican who runs Irish pubs, to illustrate the immense popularity of Guinness. Reference the staggering number of pints sold in his establishments as a testament to its widespread appeal.

  • Dublin’s Darling: Touch on the regional affinity for Guinness in Dublin, where it's not just a drink but a symbol of Irish pride and heritage.

Murphy's: The Sweet Stout of Cork

  • Cork's Own Brew: Introduce Murphy's as a stout originating from Cork, offering a contrast to the Dublin-based Guinness. Discuss its history and current production under the Heineken banner.

  • Sweeter Side of Stout: Describe the sweeter palate of Murphy's compared to its counterparts. Emphasize its appeal to those who prefer their stout with a less bitter profile, offering a more mellow drinking experience.

  • Consumer Insight: Share views from stout enthusiasts like Doug Freyburger, who highlight Murphy’s as the choice for those who lean towards sweeter flavours in their beer.

Beamish: The Balanced Stout of Cork

  • Beamish's Rich Heritage: Beamish, often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts, holds a unique place in Ireland's stout history. Originally the 'original' stout of Ireland, Beamish has a legacy that predates even Guinness, offering a fascinating glimpse into the early stout brewing traditions of the country.

  • Taste Profile: Beamish strikes a middle ground in the stout spectrum, finding a balance between the bitter and sweet. It's known for its stronger, drier taste, which can be quite rewarding for those who give it a chance. This makes Beamish an ideal choice for stout lovers seeking a harmonious blend of flavours.

  • User Experiences: James McCallum’s preference for Beamish, highlighting its distinct taste and balanced profile, showcases how this stout holds its own against its more popular rivals.

Comparative Analysis

In comparing these three iconic stouts, it's essential to consider various aspects, including their flavour profiles, cultural significance, and the loyalty they inspire among their drinkers.

Flavour Profile Comparison

  • Guinness: Noted for its burnt, robust flavour, Guinness offers a bold taste experience, often described as 'a swallowing beer, not a tasting one.' Its creamy texture and the iconic surge-and-settle effect make it a visually appealing pint.

  • Murphy's: Leaning towards a sweeter palate, Murphy's is often described as having chocolate/coffee notes, making it a gentler introduction to stouts for those new to the style.

  • Beamish: Offering a drier, stronger taste, Beamish presents a more intense stout experience, combining the best of both bitter and sweet profiles.

Cultural and Regional Preferences

  • Guinness as Dublin’s Pride: In Dublin, Guinness is more than just a stout; it's a cultural icon. The affection for Guinness in its hometown is unmatched, often considered the quintessential Irish stout.

  • Murphy's and Beamish in Cork: While Murphy’s and Beamish are both Cork stouts, they hold different places in the hearts of locals. Murphy's is particularly beloved in Cork, known for its smoother taste.

Consumer Loyalty and Experience

  • Drawing from personal experiences and anecdotes, such as those shared by publican Steve Basile and stout enthusiasts like Doug Freyburger and James McCallum, it's clear that each stout has its loyalists. Guinness is often the go-to choice for many, but Murphy's and Beamish have their dedicated followers who swear by their unique qualities.

a glass of guinness sitting on top of a table
a glass of guinness sitting on top of a table

The Best Irish Stout – A Matter of Personal Preference

As we reach the end of our exploration into Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish, it's evident that each of these Irish stouts holds its own unique appeal. The 'best' Irish stout is not a straightforward answer but rather a reflection of personal taste and preference. Let's summarise their distinct characteristics:

Summarising the Stout Trio

  • Guinness: A symbol of Irish brewing excellence, Guinness stands out for its strong, robust flavour and creamy texture. Its global popularity and cultural significance make it a perennial favourite.

  • Murphy's: With its sweeter, more chocolatey notes, Murphy's offers a smoother experience, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer a less bitter stout.

  • Beamish: Beamish serves as the middle ground with its drier, stronger taste. It's a stout for those who appreciate a more intense flavour profile, balancing the bitter and sweet aspects.

The Role of Personal Preference

  • For Bitter Stout Lovers: If you enjoy a stout with a robust, bitter flavour, Guinness is likely your best choice.

  • For Those Who Prefer Sweetness: Murphy's will appeal to you if you prefer a sweeter, smoother stout.

  • Seeking Balance: Beamish is the go-to option for those who want a stout that strikes a balance between bitter and sweet.

The Verdict

In conclusion, the debate over which is the best Irish stout – Guinness, Murphy's, or Beamish – is one that doesn't have a definitive answer. Each stout has its unique place in the hearts of beer lovers, and the best choice depends on individual palates and preferences.

Final Thoughts

Whether you're a stout connoisseur or new to this style of beer, the best way to determine your favourite is to try them all. Each stout offers a different experience, and exploring these variations is part of the joy of beer tasting. So, next time you find yourself in a pub, whether in Ireland or elsewhere, consider embarking on a stout tasting adventure – you might just discover your new favourite pint.

Ultimately, the rich history and diverse flavour profiles of Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish celebrate the depth and variety of Irish stout. So, raise a glass to these iconic brews that have become synonymous with Ireland's rich brewing heritage. Sláinte!

FAQs: Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish Irish Stouts

  1. What makes Guinness different from Murphy's and Beamish?

    • Guinness is known for its robust, burnt flavour and creamy texture, making it distinctively stronger and more bitter compared to the sweeter, chocolatey notes of Murphy's and the balanced, dry taste of Beamish.

  2. Is Murphy's Stout sweeter than Guinness?

    • Yes, Murphy's Stout is generally considered to be sweeter and smoother than Guinness, with noticeable chocolate and coffee notes, making it less bitter.

  3. Can I find Beamish Stout outside of Ireland?

    • Beamish Stout's availability outside of Ireland can vary. While it may not be as widely exported as Guinness, it can be found in select international markets and specialty beer stores.

  4. Which Irish Stout has the highest alcohol content?

    • The alcohol content of these stouts is relatively similar, usually around 4-5% ABV. However, specific ABV can vary slightly depending on the brew and the region.

  5. Is there a significant taste difference between draught and bottled versions of these stouts?

    • Yes, there can be a noticeable difference in taste between draught and bottled versions. Draught stouts often have a fresher taste and creamier texture, especially with Guinness's nitrogen-infused pour, which is hard to replicate in bottled form.

  6. Are Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish suitable for those new to stout?

    • Yes, all three are suitable for stout beginners. Guinness is great for those who don't mind a bit of bitterness, Murphy's for those who prefer a sweeter profile, and Beamish for those looking for a balanced stout experience.