Why O’Hara’s Irish Stout? I wanted to make it a point to try and find at least ONE ‘real’ Irish beer to review this week for St. Patrick’s Day.
Sure, there are plenty of Irish beers to choose from as we have in the past – Guinness, and Smithwick’s Irish Ale among them – but as we will soon learn, those beers are almost as much English as they are Irish. Both of those beers are owned by the makers of Guinness — Diageo plc of Henrietta Place, London. Just how Irish are those two beers anyway?
O’Hara’s Irish Stout is undoubtedly an Irish beer. Its maker, Carlow Brewing Company is an independent Irish brewery that started up in 1996 and began to brew their beers in 1998 in an effort to revive the craft beer scene that has long languished in that country.
They’ve had some success in that regard – in 2000, O’Hara’s Irish Stout was voted the world’s number one stout by a panel of 33 International Judges at the Brewing Industry International Awards. Not bad considering it was up against 74 other entries!
So, in an effort to find a ‘real’ Irish stout for St. Patrick’s day, I think I succeeded! Let’s see how the beer is.
The pour is, not surprisingly, stout-like. The beer is black in color, but hints of ruby red can be coaxed from it when held up to a bright enough light. It creates a dense beige-colored head that has good retention and creates a bit of lacing. I’ll say that while it looks like a Guinness, it doesn’t have that same cascading bubble effect that the ‘wigitized’ cans of Guinness create when poured into a glass. I’m not taking point off for that, its just an observation!
The aroma of this Irish stout is quite different than Guinness I think. I’m picking up a lot of roasted malts and something of a bitter chocolate or bitter coffee type of smell – or possibly a combination of the two. Nice.
On to the taste! First, I’ll remind you that this beer is better a bit warm, don’t take it out of the fridge and chug it down, you’ll miss a lot of what is offered in the taste. Like the smell, O’ Hara’s Irish Stout is big on the roasted malt flavor. It’s almost bordering on a burnt flavor, but I won’t go that far. Still, the sweeter malts are great and balance the bitter coffee flavors that seem to be a bit stronger than the bitter chocolate flavors, but they together blend quite nicely to create a very interesting result.
There’s a touch of dry hoppy bitterness in the finish, and the aftertaste of coffee and malt is very nice.
The body is a bit on the thin side, and I had not expected that, but this beer is really very smooth and drinkable. Weighing in at a relatively mild 4.3% ABV, this Irish stout would make and excellent session beer as well.
Overall, I was mightily impressed with this true Irish stout. If you’re planning on drinking Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day this year, why not give the stout from O’Hara’s a try as well? I think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise, and O’Hara’s represents the reviving craft beer industry up against the corporate giant that most people equate with Irish beer.
So, what’s your favorite Irish beer? Also, make sure you come back on St. Patrick’s Day! We have a special guest poster who is going to be talking about the state of Irish beer today!