Carlow Brewing Company - O’Hara’s Irish Red
- ABV: 4.3%
- Bottle Size: 12-oz
- Int’l Bittering Units (IBUs): 43-48° F
- Serving Temperature: 34
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip or Pint Glass
What a treat – a craft-brewed traditional Irish red ale from the Emerald Isle itself! Pouring a very deep red-amber with plenty of tight foam, this Gold Medal winning ale (at the 2013 Dublin Craft Beer Cup) looks great in the glass. Big, prominent bread crust notes burst forth in the aroma, quite toasty indeed, bolstered by a touch of roast and cocoa powder, with impressions of earthy hops. On the palate, look for well-caramelized malts and those toasted bread notes to form the core, with a hint of roast from a bit of roasted barley in the recipe (which contributes some of the deep red color, as well). Hops come through both spicy and earthy, and their moderate bitterness balances the beer nicely, contributing a bit of bite to counter those caramel malt notes. We found it finished very well-balanced too, with lingering deep toasty notes and spicy hops in equal measure. Pair with roasted or oven-baked dishes like a traditional beef hot pot, or winter soups and stews. A snack of sharp cheddar or soft, earthy goat cheese is a natural match, too. Sláinte!
So what do you think of when you hear the words “Irish beer?” St. Patrick’s Day, and inevitably, Guinness come to mind. Maybe Harp Lager too. Not exactly beers of the craft brewing movement, being owned by a massive conglomerate. We’re not knocking the beers—Guinness practically defines what Irish Dry Stout is. For many of us, it was the first good beer we’d ever tried, informing us that there are options other than bland fizzy lager. And Harp ain’t a bad brew either. But these are the big boys of the country.
Lucky for the citizenry of Ireland, the Irish mega breweries pump out much better beers than the big boys that we have domestically. But what’s the craft brew scene like in Ireland? Relatively young—some would say just getting started as it claws its way out from the shadows of the ubiquitous megabrands. At the forefront of Ireland’s craft brewing movement is the Carlow Brewing Company. Independent and family owned, it was founded in Carlow by the O’Hara family in 1996, building on a keen interest in the craft of brewing and a desire to revive a tradition once common in every town and village in Ireland, but lost since the end of the 1800s.
Carlow Brewing Company, home of the O’Hara’s brand of craft beers, is situated in the historical hop and malt growing region of Ireland, the “Barrow Valley,” evidenced by the many malt houses dotted throughout the county landscape. The brewery was originally housed in the “Goods Store,” a 19th century stone building which once served as the local provisions sale point for the town’s traders. Brewery founder, Seamus O’Hara, aimed to revive not only the small brewery culture but also the qualities found in Irish beers from that era and beyond. As Seamus puts it, “at Carlow Brewing Company we have gone back to basics and brew our beers as they used to be brewed—with natural ingredients and no artificial additives. We believe this leads to a superior quality product, with robust body, taste, flavor and aroma. Compare these characteristics with any of the mainstream brands and you will taste the difference.”
Despite an expansion in 2005, the brewery reached the limits of their original facility and moved operations to a new purpose-built brewhouse in nearby Bagenalstown in 2009. In 2013, they opened their own craft beer pub called Brewery Corner a few miles to the west in the city of Kilkenny. They currently brew about a dozen core beers plus an array of additional seasonal and draft-only beers, along with a variety of collaborations and limited editions. For more info, visit www.carlowbrewing.com.
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