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 The last bottle I tried was out of date, so it’s time to try it again with a fresh bottle.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.

Mallinsons Columbus 3.9%

Mallinsons Columbus 3.9%

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Columbus hops are a variety of US bittering hops which came out around the early 1990s. They are also known by the trade name Tomahawk and are part of the hop group called the ‘Three Cs’ – Cascade, Centennial, Columbus. The hops have a moderate to high total oil content and are known for their earthy, spicy, pungent, herbal and fairly citrus aroma.  They can impart a resin quality to a beer.

I’m not overly keen on ‘pungent, herbal’ hop aromas and flavours, which the awful BrewDog Dana certainly had in abundance, so I wasn’t sure how this beer would turn out.  In the glass it poured with a big frothy white head, with a clear light blonde colour and some lacing  – a standard golden ale appearance.
The aroma was not as herbal and spicy as expected from reading about the hop – there was citrus zest, some lemony hops, a touch of soft sweet spicy hops, with a background of light fruity sweet pale malts to allow the hops to shine through.

The taste was impressive for the 3.9% abv and the Columbus hop came across as quite complex – there was some bitter citrus zest, lemon as expected from the aroma but some floral notes were coming through now, some soft bit aromatic floral woody notes on top of the  light sweet pale malt base,  which was ideal for this beer. It was quite hoppy for the abv and had a really decent flavour.

The beer was softly carbonated with a light oily texture which gave it a good mouthfeel. Bitter citrus zesty hops were complemented by the pale light sweet malt. The finish was fairly bitter with some dryness, with some spicy herbal notes coming through with a touch of grass and peppery light wood.

I expected it, as a golden ale at 3.9%, to be fairly pedestrian, but it was a very well made beer which highlighted the best flavours and aromas of the Columbus hop. I’ve had some good beers from Mallinsons and this one is certainly worth getting if you see it about.

BrewDog Dana 6.7%

BrewDog Dana 6.7%

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Extra Stryian Dana are a new variety of hops grown in Slovenia and bred from German Hallertau Magnum hops and Slovenian ‘genetic hop material’. They are dual purpose (for bittering and aroma), have a high alpha acid content and are supposed to have a lemon, piney, floral aroma. The cost is said to be considerably lower than mainly hop varieties.

There is very little information on this variety of hop , but some single-hopped beers have been produced with it including Arbor Single Hop Dana, Acorn Dana IPA and Itchen Valley Dana.

After reading some views on Twitter regarding the odd aroma of the Dana IPA (as 1 of the 4 for this year’s release of BrewDog’s IPA is Dead pack) – this would be a good one to start for this series of single-hopped beer reviews.

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In the glass it has a clear orange amber appearance with a frothy, fairly dense white head. Soft carbonation gently rises from the bottom and there is some lacing of froth on the sides. Overall, the appearance was good, but I was intrigued about the aroma considerably as it was described as smelling of chicken, lamb dinner (?), herbs etc.

The aroma had this weird herbal component, sort of like chopped up wild flowers and crushed plant stems – there were no fruity aromas in here. Plant resins, old fusty weeds and there was an odd sort of cow parsley smell. It seemed as though a load of weeds and rough vegetation had been gathered from the roadside and slung into the brew. It was pretty awful to be honest.

A poor aroma can really wreck a beer, so I wasn’t expecting much from the flavour. There was a background of quite sweet light pale caramel malts which seemed to be pleasant but the Dana hops just overpowered it with this bitter odd herbal taste – the plant stems were back, a strange spicy note,  some plastic resin in there, no fruits, no nice citrusy notes – it was rather hard going. It had a medium body and carbonation and the finish pretty much delivered the same flavours. It was quite dry, with bitter lingering wild plant stems and that slight plasticy hint too.

Overall this wasn’t a good beer from BrewDog and half the bottle ended up in Edinburgh’s sewage system. Maybe this hop doesn’t suit aggressive hopping, or is better used in a blend with other hops – but this first experience with it was definitely off-putting. Hopefully, the other 3 in the BrewDog pack will be better…….