Saturday 25 July 2015

Mr. FFID’s Beer Cellar: Foreign Affair by O’Hara’s Brewery

Foreign affair, O'Hara's, Star Hill, Irish craft beer, American craft beer

After many years of pairing every alcoholic beverage with at least two cigarettes, early last year I finally managed to get off the smokes. Following more than a decade of thinking that beer tasted like sweet carbonated cigarettes, I discovered the world of craft beer. I approached it with cynicism and scepticism, initially half-convinced that these unusually named beers were just re-labelled bottles of their half price equivalents. Then I remember tasting a bottle of O’Hara’s ‘Leann Follain’ extra stout and everything changed… I was almost giddy with excitement that a beer could taste that good. There was no turning back.

Carlow Brewing company (also known as O’Hara’s Brewery) are one of the first wave of breweries in the Irish craft beer revolution. They opened in 1996 when just a handful of other notable breweries (such as Franciscan Well & Porterhouse) were around to pioneer the notion of tasty Irish beer*.  O’Hara’s are one of the best stocked craft beers around and it’s rare enough these days that you’d go to a pub that wouldn’t at least have a few bottles of O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale in the fridge.

So I was delighted when French Foodie in Dublin and I were invited along to an event in 57 The Headline where brewers and owners from O’Hara’s and American craft brewery Starr Hill were giving a panel talk, hosted by @irishbeersnob.

Starr Hill were on a collaboration tour or Europe and had stopped off for a few days in Ireland to brew up a once off beer with O’Hara’s. It was a fascinating talk, with the guys from Starr Hill talking about the American craft beer scene. They are well ahead of Ireland in terms of market penetration stating craft makes up around 11% of the US beer market (The most recent figure I heard here was 1.5%).

Foreign affair, O'hara's, Starr Hill, Irish Craft beer, American craft beer

The discussion then turned to the beer that they had collaborated on. They choose a to go cross styles by mixing a traditional Irish red ale with a hefty amount of the American Hop blend Falconers Flight to produce a red IPA. If this beer were a person, he’d be an all American quarterback, white teeth and southern drawl, but with a red Irish beard and freckles.

The result is a very drinkable and flavoursome beer. Coming out of the bottle it’s a clear copper colour, smelling citrusy at first along with biscuit and caramel. The hops are present but not overpowering and compliment the solid red ale underneath. The head disappears pretty quickly and after a few moments there’s very little carbonation but it doesn’t feel flat. The brewers both agreed that they wanted something easy drinking that you could enjoy a few of, so went for a relatively low alcohol content for the style, coming in at 4.8%.

I’ve had a few bottles over the last 3 weeks, from Baggot Street Wines and McHugh’s in Artane. It was also delicious on draft when I had a pint last week in P. Mac’s. The only problem with this beer is that it’s running out fast. If you haven’t already, get out and pick up a bottle cos when it’s gone, its gone!

*For more info on the history of Irish Craft beer, pick up a copy of the encyclopedic Sláinte by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen.

Disclaimer: French Foodie in Dublin and I were invited to the event in 57 The Headline. Like herself, I would never write about events or products in return for invitations or free stuff. All opinions above, whether right or wrong, are all mine.

Follow Mr. FFID's beer tweets @MrFFID