Monthly Archives: November 2013

Franciscan Well Rebel Red 4.3%

The Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork was founded in 1998 built on the site of a Franciscan Monastery. Recently this January, Molson Coors bought the brand and micro-brewery to join their portfolio of other breweries such as Sharp’s and beers such as Worthington’s White Shield.

I saw two Franciscan Well beers in Tesco’s, Longford – the first one for review is the Rebel Red. The label states it has 1.4 units (UK) and 1.1 units (ROI) for a 330ml bottle at 4.3% so it seems I’m allowed a bit more beer here in Ireland.

The beer pours a red amber colour, clear, with a thin off white head that dissipated to a rim around the glass.

20131121_233833The nose has soft caramel malts, light berry fruits and a slight touch of red apple. The flavour is similar to the nose with soft quite light textured sweet fruity caramel malts, some soft berry fruits with a hint of red apple skin and a little hedgerow hop bitterness. The palate is fairly sweet malty, moderate carbonation, light to medium body and the beer carries on with the main flavour with some soft fruity caramel malts in the finish.

It’s a easy going beer with soft delicate flavours and one of the best I’ve come across in the style. I actually forgot that I tried this on keg in Sligo a couple of months ago – my rating was exactly the same as for the bottle tried today.  A good example of an Irish Red Ale.

O’Hara’s Irish Stout 4.3%

This dry stout has been brewed in Carlow since 1999 and has also been named as ‘Celtic Stout’. The last bottle I tried was out of date, so it’s time to try it again with a fresh bottle.

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It poured with a huge beige head – I had to leave it a little while to settle down before pouring the rest of the contents in the glass. Pitch black with only a slight amount of ruby light through at the bottom. The aroma was very soft – some dark malts, roasted malts, with a slight hint of chocolate – not a lot going on here.

Taste initially is of bitter roasted malts, burnt toast, some quite strong roast espresso coffee and a dab of vague plain dark chocolate under the bitterness with a slight layer of sweeter dark caramel malts in the background. There’s a slight woody note too and I detected those bitter bit twiggy hops in there.

The mouthfeel was fairly light and the beer was somewhat over-carbonated which removed some of the smoothness and the texture was a little thin (best to leave until the head has dropped to a thin layer). Certainly a bitter finish – some burnt toast crust, touch of coffee grounds, rather dry, with a lingering burnt bit earthy roast and a slight hint of dark fruit.

This stout is certainly around the bitter roasted end of the style – I personally prefer some dark malt sweetness in there and a bit more body in a stout – but this is made specifically a ‘dry’ stout. Overall, a fairly good stout but a bit too roasty bitter. I prefer the stronger Leann Folláin  – I have a bottle and it’ll be up for review soon.

O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale 5.2%

Carlow Brewing produce the range of O’Hara’s beers plus the Marks and Spencer County Carlow Irish Stout readily available in the UK. The brewing has been one of the first producing Irish craft beer as they have been doing it for around 17 years.

I picked up this bottle in Tesco’s, Longford. It has a golden amber colour, crystal clear with a frothy white head that dissipates to a thin layer with some lacing.

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It has a fairly hoppy nose, some grapefruit zest with a touch of grassy hop and slighty sweet cereal malts. The flavour has moderately bitter grapefruit zesty hops, light herbal notes with some mellow grassy hops over a fairly sweet caramel malt base. It is has moderate carbonation with a medium body that’s a little oily in texture. The finish has more bitterness with the sweet caramel background tempering the bitterness of the hops.

Overall, it’s came across as a fairly decent beer but perhaps less hoppy than expected (the Smithwick’s Pale Ale I had earlier on today had a better citrusy bite) – I remember having it on keg in Dublin in August where it was more fruity and hoppy with quite a citrus tang. I’m not sure –  this bottle may not be ultra fresh, but surely it should be from Tesco? I do feel this could score higher with even more hops thrown in.

Smithwick’s Pale Ale 4.5%

This is the second beer in the 4 pack of Smithwick’s beers purchased in Tesco a few days ago. I was interested to compare this widely available bottled beer with the limited edition Winter Spirit (review #1) also at 4.5%.

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The colour is light amber, clear with a frothy white head. In the aroma there are moderately hoppy citrus hop with soft lemon and fairly sweet light pale malt base. The taste matched the aroma, light lemon,  some mellow zesty citrus with a soft fairly sweet light caramel malt background. It had soft carbonation, a light to medium body, with a slightly oily mouthfeel. The finish was more or less the same flavours, with that quite refreshing soft lemon and mellow citrus hop. The beer is certainly quaffable on a warm day, with an uncomplicated flavour profile.

Overall,  this certainly comes out as more satisfying and flavourful than the Winter Spirit . Although it’s marketed as ‘craft’ it’s still very safe, but was certainly more hoppy than I expected from a big brewery. Not too bad at all.

Smithwick’s Winter Spirit 4.5%

I saw this as part of a 4 pack of bottles in Tesco, Carrick-on-Shannon with the Pale Ale yesterday and thought it was worth a try. It was launched in Dublin on mid-October and only one batch has been made, marketed as a limited editional seasonal ale. The beer is brewed at the Kilkenny Brewery owned by Diageo, along with Smithwick’s Pale Ale, plus three varieties of Kilkenny, including a strong 6.4% version for the export market.

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The beer is dark caramel brown with a big, frothy, slightly off-white head. It has a fairly strong sweet caramel malt aroma, with soft toffee, a touch of raisin fruits and soft brown sugars.

It has a similar taste to the nose – caramel, brown sugars, very soft raisins with also a slight hint of English bitter hops. However, the flavour is more subdued than the aroma, flattens out in the middle before it then picks up somewhat in the finish with some more toasted malts and a dab of brown bread becoming evident. The carbonation was moderate with a light to medium body.

It’s a simple malty beer, fairly similar to a Scottish 80/- without the more robust flavour that characterizes that style. Although it is a perfectly drinkable with some pleasant soft sweet malt flavours, considering at the 4.5% abv, the flavour is rather attenuated, it comes across as a little thin and doesn’t fulfill it’s aim as a ‘winter’ beer. Overall, it’s certainly better and more flavoursome than the standard Smithwick’s draught.