Guinness Cans a Breakfast Beer to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

The Breakfast Tea Amber Ale has an inspiring origin story.

Breakfast Tea Amber Ale
Breakfast Tea Amber Ale | Photo courtesy of Guinness Open Gate Brewery
Breakfast Tea Amber Ale | Photo courtesy of Guinness Open Gate Brewery

How people choose to imbibe on March 17 can run the gamut: maybe you go for a classic Irish whiskey, splurge on a fancy cocktail, or lean into the green beer of it all. Rarely on St. Patrick’s Day is a spot of tea on your mind.

But that was exactly the inspiration behind Guinness Open Gate Brewery’s Breakfast Tea Amber Ale. The company’s only stateside brewery is fittingly celebrating the Irish holiday in style this month, releasing beers every week in its Maryland taproom. And the Breakfast Amber, which is getting canned for the first time, probably has the most interesting origin story.

“When we first opened, we had a lot of different people coming through,” says head brewery Sean Brennan. “One customer talked about growing up in Dublin across from St. James Gate with fond memories of his mom having tea and the smell of the brewery wafting through the window. The combination of sweet wort with bold tea flavors sparked our idea to brew a beer just like that.”

Breakfast Tea Amber Ale
Breakfast Tea Amber Ale | Photo courtesy of Guinness Open Gate Brewery

The 4.8%-ABV beer is brewed with Irish breakfast tea that is steeped after fermentation, as a dry hop, in order to extract the tea’s most bitter and complex flavors. While many times, a breakfast beer style might be more closely associated with an oatmeal stout, Brennan and his team thought an understated amber was the way to go.

“We wanted the tea to be really prominent,” he says. “The tea has sort of a pungent, brisky, malty flavor that balances well with the caramel notes of an amber.”

And while breakfast is in the name, the beer doesn’t necessarily need to be sipped in the morning (though no one is stopping you). Brennan says that it really is any “every day, any time beer” that pairs well with a traditional Irish meal of meat and potatoes or a hearty stew.

For the purists who think Guinness should only stick to the signature stout that it’s known for (and is still exclusively brewed in Dublin), the Breakfast Tea Amber is just the tip of the iceberg. Later this month, the brewery is releasing a beer brewed with pineapple puree and finished on toasted coconut chips and, in May, will be distributing a tart Salt & Lime Ale.

“This experimentation is in the same realm of what Guinness has done during its whole history,” Brennan says. “This was the first brewery to do nitro and people thought it was crazy then. If you’re not pushing your own boundaries, you’re never going to grow. So we’re going to keep adding elements from the American craft beer scene to the historical footprint that Guinness has laid out.”

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Jess Mayhugh is the editorial director of Food & Drink for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.