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O’Hara’s 20th Anniversary Imperial Stout

February 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.7

My eleventh beer from the Carlow Brewing Company now and what I believe will be my ninth under their O’Hara’s banner. The beer is a limited release that has been available since around March of 2016 as a 20th Anniversary Imperial Stout to celebrate twenty years since the original brewery was founded back in 1996. I stumbled across this beer while I was visiting Armagh in the north of Ireland last month and quickly picked up two bottles, trying one the next evening while keeping a second to age and see how it tastes at a later date. Labelled as a complex brew with rich coffee and chocolate notes, the brewery mentions that the taste should continue to develop for years and I’m hopeful it will prove to be a good decision in picking up two bottles. This one will be my first imperial stout from the brewery but I have tried two other stouts from them previously, their O’Hara’s Leann Folláin dry stout which I reviewed here back in July 2015 as well as trying their excellent, flagship O’Hara’s Irish Stout numerous times over the years so this was definitely one I was looking forward to going in; here’s what I thought of it.

oharas-20th-anniversary-imperial-stout

Appearance (5/5): Quite a thick, dark beer that is black in colour and comes with an opaque body. There was a one and a half centimetre head on top that was foamy looking with the odd bubble near the centre. Head retention was quite good, particularly for the strength of the beer and there wasn’t much movement or reduction in size over the opening minutes really. Eventually losing about a third of its initial size, the head manages to leave some nice touches of lacing on the sides of the glass as I started to drink the beer.
Aroma (7/10): Slightly fruity on the nose initially, there was a sweet-smelling beer that opened with some cherries and a hint of plum coming through alongside an excellent helping of chocolate and plenty of darker malts. There was some coffee notes nearer the middle of the beer and I got some touches of spice too but further sweetness was added thanks to some vanilla and oak notes. Despite being a beer with quite a high abv., this one didn’t have an overly strong nose but there was some burnt sugars and roasted notes that brought things to quite a nice close.
Taste (7/10): Opening with quite a lot of milky notes and some lactose, there was a definite milk chocolate taste to this one in the early going with some touches of liquorice in there too. I found this one to be quite a creamy tasting beer that featured some pleasant coffee flavours towards the middle, although they seemed a little subdued when compared to those from the nose. There was again a hint of spice and some darker fruits coming through towards the end, hints of plum and cherries featuring alongside some raisin and figs before the vanilla from the nose seen things out. It’s quite a nice tasting beer but I’d have liked it to come through just a little bit stronger really.
Palate (3/5): Quite a creamy beer that came through quite balanced and smooth with a medium body that could perhaps have been a little fuller. There was touches of spice nearer the end of the beer and it also turned out to be slightly boozy at that point too, something not unexpected for a 10% abv. beer. There wasn’t quite as much complexity to this one as I’d have liked in truth but the balance was nice enough and carbonation wise the beer sat somewhere around moderate; the sweetness being the most memorable things about this one in truth and something that got stronger as things went on.

Overall (14/20): Quite a nice beer overall without being a standout, although to be honest I was probably expecting more from this considering it’s a 20th anniversary beer from the brewery. It opened with some nice sweetness thanks to the sugars as well as some dark fruits then later on some vanilla but it definitely wasn’t the strongest tasting beer, something I wasn’t expecting to say about one coming in at 10% really. It had quite a smooth, creamy feel with milky chocolate dominating the taste but it could have been darker and more complex. It’s one that I’m still glad to have picked up and tried but I’m hoping the bottle I’m ageing turns out to be better than this one.

Brewed In: Muine Bheag, County Carlow, Ireland
Brewery: Carlow Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2016
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (375ml)
Purchased: The Wine Store (Armagh)
Price: £3.99

Wicklow Wolf Elevation Pale Ale

February 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.0

Only my second ever Wicklow Wolf beer now, this one follows on from their Black Perle Porter that I enjoyed back in July 2015 and again this is another that I managed to find when visiting Ireland recently; their beers just don’t seem to be available in Scotland sadly. This particular offering is an American pale ale that uses Mosaic and Calypso hops to give what the brewery describes as a “pale ale you can enjoy all day”. The beer will be my 54th from the south of Ireland placing it sixth of the beers by country list on this blog by some distance and hopefully I’ll be able to pick up a few more when I next visit at some point this summer.

wicklow-wolf-elevation-pale-ale

Appearance (3/5): Quite a bright looking amber to orange colour that’s slightly hazy with a lot of fine bubbles rising to the surface for the first few minutes. The main point to note about the beer though is the absolutely massive head it forms after what wasn’t even an aggressive pour; it’s ridiculous, there was about two inches of beer in a pint glass and the rest was head which was very disappointing. When I tried again, pouring incredibly slow, it wasn’t as bad but it was still oversized and left a lot of lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (6/10): The beer got off to quite hoppy and floral start with a pine base and decent grapefruit notes, I got some citrus and even a little peach. It was a fresh and lively offering with a faint caramel sweetness but the fruits and zesty notes are strongest. It’s an interesting beer but I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been more pronounced without such a big head to it.
Taste (6/10): Following on closely from the nose, the beer opens with a solid combination of pine and grapefruit hops but neither was overpowering. There’s some caramel that was a touch stronger than with nose and the citrus zest were again present too. Nothing seemed dominate though and I would have like it to come through a touch stronger, however there was some spice as well as the odd earthy malt nearer the end.
Palate (3/5): Quite fresh and very lively beer, this one had a light-medium body but definitely seemed over carbonated, bordering gassy; it was also a little bland at times. There was a lot of zest and a strong tang but hop wise it was lacking some and the finish was quite crisp with some dryness but ultimately disappointing.

Overall (12/20): Pretty disappointing stuff overall from Wicklow Wolf, it had all the right ingredients but didn’t seem strong enough or to come together well sadly. There was a lot of carbonation to the beer, definitely too much with it feeling gassy at points and the head in particular was a concern, it was ridiculously big when pouring the beer. It was drinkable throughout but at no point would I describe it as a good or overly enjoyable offering, had the hops and caramel malts been stronger than I might have enjoyed this one more.

Brewed In: Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland
Brewery: Wicklow Wolf Brewing Co.
First Brewed: 201
Type: American Pale Ale
Abv: 4.8%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Reilly’s (Lisnaskea)
Price: £2.59

Kill Lager

February 1, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.6

My first review of a beer from Trouble Brewing based in County Kildaire now although I have tried one of their beers on a previous trip to Ireland without actually reviewing it; I’m not sure exactly which of theirs I have already tried but their Graffiti session IPA seems to spring to mind. This one is another that picked up in Ireland whilst visiting over the holidays and I cracked the beer open in early January thinking it was about time I tried something from this brewery with the eye-catching labels. Being the only offering from the brewery available in the bottle shop I visited and given the cashier had recommended it, I grabbed this bottle thinking it was going to be a fairly standard pale lager offering but was pleasantly surprised upon opening it to find out it was a darker Vienna lager loaded with sweetness; here’s what I thought of it.

kill-lager

Appearance (3/5): Light copper in colour and fairly clear bodied, this one was still but topped with what was quite a disappointing looking, half centimetre tall head that was patchy and only covered about half of the surface.
Aroma (7/10): Opening quite sweet with some caramel and toffee notes before some bread and biscuit malts featured alongside some basic sugars. It was quite a predictable nose to the beer with some subtle earthy hops coming through with some floral backing before touches of toasted malts appeared. Towards the end there was a little freshness and some spice but it was generally quite a decent and balanced aroma.
Taste (7/10): Sweet to begin and coming through with a good mix of toffee and caramel flavours before the sugars started to appear. The biscuit malts from the nose featured and the floral touches seemed a little stronger here too, some grassy hops backing them up. Nearer the end there was again some toasted malts and faint citrus that gave the beer quite a nice, unexpected finish that was a slight improvement on the nose.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and a touch sweeter than I’d expected going in without being overpowering, there was a nice balance to the beer. I found this one quite crisp with a semi-dry feel to it and the odd touch of hop bitterness, particularly around the middle of the taste before the more earthy, toasted malts came through and changed this. It was a little stronger than anticipated too but carbonation levels were moderate and the beer seemed quite fresh and drinkable too.

Overall (16/20): This was a really nice beer and one that was a lot better than expected, probably helped by the fact that I’d barely read the label when I picked this one up and was anticipating a fairly standard pale lager before opening it. There was a lot of sweetness to the beer that was helped along by some caramel, toffee and biscuit flavours plus the balance wasn’t too bad either. It was moderately carbonated and quite easy to drink with some sugars and bread malts coming through and being balanced out by the odd toasted malt and floral flavour. Nice stuff from Trouble and hopefully I’ll be able to pick up a few more of their beers this year.

Brewed In: Kill, County Kildare, Ireland
Brewery: Trouble Brewing
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Vienna Lager
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Reilly’s (Lisnaskea)
Price: £2.59

Guinness Rye Pale Ale

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.95

A new Guinness beer for the second half of 2016 now, this one is a beer that I’d first learnt existed only a couple of days before picking up a bottle while over in Ireland for the New Year holidays, and as yet it’s not a beer that I managed to spot anywhere in Scotland. This one follows one from the pint of the same brewery’s Hop House 13 that I tried back in the summer of 2015 as another ‘craft beer’ offering from Guinness and although that one wasn’t the best of beers out there, it was still an okay effort so I picked this one up thinking it would be more of the same. The beer apparently features citrus and grapefruit notes thanks to the user of Mosaic and Cascade hops and was one I went into with high hopes; here’s what I thought of it when I cracked it open right at the start of the year.

guinness-rye-pale-ale

Appearance (4/5): Bright amber with a half centimetre head that’s bubbly and white, covering the surface pretty well; there is a lot of fine bubbles rising through what is a semi-clear body.
Aroma (5/10): Quite a subdued nose with some odd floral notes and a touch of orange in the early going but it did seem a touch weaker than expected. There was some touches of rye and the odd earthy malts with a basic sweetness and some grains nearer the end.
Taste (6/10): Starting with some light malts and a few earthy touches, there was a definite citrus base to this beer and some floral flavours featured as well. Again things were a bit weak and subdued with some rye and earthy hops nearer the middle but it was at least a touch stronger than with the nose. Towards the middle and end some pine hops and grassy flavours featured before some nondescript fruits gave it a fresh finish.
Palate (3/5): Light-medium bodied with a slight tang and lively carbonation, the beer had quite an odd bitterness to it though. There was a semi-fresh feel to proceedings and the balance seemed okay but the beer in general was quite light and lacking at times sadly, almost seeming bland at points.

Overall (9/20): Quite a poor showing from Guinness on the whole, I was definitely expecting more from this one going in but it ended up being too subdued and weak with a lot of blandness to it as well. There was the odd citrus burst that helped things along and I enjoyed the brief glimpses of pine that appeared in the taste but beyond that there wasn’t a whole lot to keep you interested and the floral touches even seemed a little off. There was at least some of the promised rye flavours and there was some nice bitterness towards the end but it seemed to disappear far too quickly for my liking; this one definitely struck me as a poor attempt at craft beer and it’s not likely I’ll have it again either.

Brewed In: Dublin, Ireland
Brewery: St. James’s Gate Brewery
First Brewed: 2016
Type: Rye Beer/Speciality Grain
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Reilly’s (Lisnaskea)
Price: £2.99

Of Foam And Fury

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.4

My third beer from the Galway Bay brewery now and like the previous two, this is another than I had to travel to Galway in order to get my hands on. Following on from the brewery’s Buried At Sea & Full Sail offerings, both of which were very enjoyable beers, this is one that I’m really looking forward to trying. The beer is one that I picked up in the McCambridges of Galway shop over the summer after having it near the top of my ‘Irish beers to try’ list for quite some time. Widely regarded as one of the islands best beers, this one is a double IPA that comes in at 8.5% abv. and was first introduced in late 2013 before going on to be one of the brewery’s most popular offerings. Like the majority of Irish craft beers this isn’t one that I’ve spotted outside of Ireland, and to be honest I’ve only seen it in Galway itself so I doubt it’s one that’s likely to make it to Scotland anytime soon but it’s definitely one that I’ll be on the lookout for the next time I’m over in Ireland if it’s half as good as the online reviews suggest it will be; let’s find out if it is.

of-foam-and-fury

Appearance (5/5): Quite a bright looking beer, this one sits as a cloudy orange colour that boarders on amber and is topped with a respectable, one centimetre tall head that’s quite thick and foamy looking; it’s fits the name at least. Retention is very good as well here, there’s almost no movement at all over the opening minutes and the head manages to stay throughout the time it took me to finish the beer, there was also some touches of lace on the sides of the glass on the way down too; excellent stuff.
Aroma (9/10): Quite a strong nose as I’d expected, the beer opens with a solid tropical aroma that’s coupled with some grapefruit and pine notes; there was a mix of orange, mango and apricot coming through with some citrus not far behind. There’s a nice floral aroma around the middle of the beer and a couple of sweet malts make an appearance to help the balance; some brown sugars and caramel make up the bulk of this. Towards the end some touches of alcohol show but only faintly and there is some further fruits in there too.
Taste (8/10): Opening up quite a bit more bitter than the nose hinted at, this one was very hoppy with a lot of tropical fruits in the early going; in particular some mango, apricot and orange from the nose show but there is also some grapefruit, passion fruit and peach in there. Around the middle there is a lot of sweet malts and caramel coming through, just like with the nose, alongside some biscuit flavours and a bit of pine too. It’s definitely a strong beer with a lot going one and it’s rounded off by some pleasant floral touches and some touches of citrus; excellent stuff.
Palate (4/5): Quite a thick, full-bodied beer with a huge amount of hops coming at you from the opening bell. There was tonnes of bitterness to this beer and it seemed relatively fresh with moderate carbonation levels and a few citrus bursts. There was a resinous feel to the bitterness at points and it was sharp too with quite a dry finish that seemed to linger.

Overall (18/20): This one was a truly excellent Irish beer, easily coming in as the best beer from Ireland that I’ve tried and well ahead of the next closest which coincidentally happens to be another Galway Bay offering; their Full sail IPA. The beer opens up with a lot of tropical fruits, some nice pine bitterness and some sweet malts helping the balance the beer some. It was full of flavour from the start, the combination of fruits early on being particularly good and the relatively high alcohol content was also quite well hidden too. The beer was an easy one to drink and well worth the fairly high price I paid for the bottle; it’s definitely one worth hunting for if you find yourself in Ireland at any point.

Brewed In: Galway, County Galway, Ireland
Brewery: Galway Bay Brewery
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Double IPA
Abv: 8.5%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: McCambridges of Galway (Galway, Ireland)
Price: €7.15 (approx. £6.44)

Blacks Of Kinsale Black IPA

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.35

A second Irish beer in a row now and another IPA from the country, this time a black IPA that follows on from the Bo Bristle IPA that I reviewed here last. Like that offering, this one was another that I picked up a bottle of from the Ennistown SuperValu when travelling through County Clare in the summer. As with most of the beer that I tried in Ireland over the summer, this bottle from Blacks Of Kinsale is a beer I had read a little about prior to my visit and have been on the lookout for during my travels; especially because if is a rare black IPA from Ireland. I’ve also managed to reach another milestone upon reviewing this one here as well, the beer will be the fiftieth unique offering from Ireland that I’ll have tried and it is also the penultimate beer of those that I brought home from Ireland that I have left to try, with only Galway Bay’s Of Foam and Fury double IPA left to open after this one.

blacks-of-kinsale-black-ipa

Appearance (4/5): An opaque and really dark mahogany colour that looks black on first glance and is topped with a huge, two and a bit inch head that holds pretty well and actually seems to gain a little height as it settles. The texture of the head is a foamy one and retention is excellent and there is plenty of lacing on the sides as the head recedes a little more.
Aroma (6/10): Quite a dark nose with some coffee and caramel coming through in the early going alongside touches of bitterness and a little citrus as well. The hops start to come through around the middle with some faint pine and herbal touches in there too. It’s not the strongest beer on the nose but some darker roasted notes feature towards the end, as do some darker malts.
Taste (7/10): Much like the nose, this one starts quite dark with some roasted malts and a few burnt ones too but the hops from the nose seem more pronounced here and there’s a touch more of the citrus too. It’s not an overly hoppy number but a little pine does come through before being followed by a little caramel sweetness. A few grassy hops feature towards the end off this one and it was quite easy to drink as well.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied and fairly smooth, it seems crisp in places but doesn’t have anywhere near as much carbonation coming through as I’d expected. It’s pretty well-balanced on the whole and easy to drink as well with quite a wet finish that touched on some light bitterness.

Overall (13/20): Not a bad attempt at a black IPA here, this one wasn’t quite as hoppy as I’d have liked but there was some touches of bitterness and a little pine coming through but I felt these could have been a little stronger. The dark malts and roasted flavours, alongside some chocolate seemed to be the easiest to detect but the beer held a nice balance and was quite an easy one going down so I’ll not complain too much about it.

Brewed In: Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Brewery: Blacks Of Kinsale Craft Brewery
First Brewed: 2013
Type: American IPA
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: SuperValu (Ennistown)
Price: €3.59 (£3.08 approx.)

Bo Bristle IPA

September 21, 2016 1 comment

Rating: 3.1

One of the last few remaining Irish beers that I managed to pick up while travelling around the country during the summer there, this one being a bottle that I stumbled across in a SuperValu store in Ennistown, County Clare. The beer is one of the many beers I’d noted the name of prior to visiting the country again and although I’m not 100% sure, I think it might also be my first beer from County Offaly as well. This one will be the 49th Irish beer that I’ll have reviewed here and given how much I visit the country, it’s hardly surprising that it’s now sitting sixth in my beers by country list; so let’s find out how this one compares to the rest from the country.

bo-bristle

Appearance (3/5): Quite a lively looking beer as I poured it and it soon developed a fairly large, inch and a half head that was a foamy white but receded quickly to settle around a centimetre tall. The body of the beer was very clear looking and surprisingly still once the head had settled, sitting a light amber to copper colour. there was a touch more build up of lacing round the circumference of the beer but only slightly more than to be found at the centre and the beer was definitely darker and clearer looking than I’d expected.
Aroma (6/10): Not quite what I was expecting on the nose when I opened this one, the beer was surprisingly unlike an IPA with it actually seeming more like a lager or pilsner at times. There was some corn and bread malts alongside a touch of sweetness and only around the middle did some lighter hops start to make themselves known. It definitely wasn’t a hoppy offering and the tropical fruits I’d expected going in were sadly missing. There was some touches of citrus sneaking through though and I managed to detect caramel but beyond that it was quite a light beer on the nose I’m afraid.
Taste (6/10): Continuing from where the nose left off, this one was again quite a light beer with too few hops and not enough bitterness coming through for it to be a true American IPA. There was more sweetness this time round at least and the caramel also seemed more pronounced but the bread malts and the corn from the nose were present too and ended up dominating down the stretch of the beer. There was the odd citrus flavour and a faint touch of fruit in there too but it almost seemed like a pale ale/lager hybrid offering at times and wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I picked it up.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied and quite a smooth beer on the palate, it wasn’t as crisp as I’d anticipated after seeing the active carbonation when opening the bottle but it wasn’t exactly flat either. There was some caramel sweetness at times, particularly nearer the end and I got a little bitterness around then too, plus the balance wasn’t too bad either but I was definitely expecting more of tropical fruit bitterness and a nice citrus tang if I’m honest and sadly the palate didn’t quite live up to that.

Overall (14/20): When I was buying this one, and indeed when opening it, I was expecting quite a tropical beer with plenty of hop bitterness and a nice variety of fruit coming through but in the end it was much more like an English style IPA than an American one, evening seeming a touch bland at times. Going into this one with no expectations you’d likely come away thinking it was a fairly okay beer and one that went down easy enough but I was expecting something a lot more from it and as a result it’s not likely to be one I’d pick up again sadly.

Brewed In: Banagher, County Offaly, Ireland
Brewery: Bo Bristle Brewing Company
First Brewed: circa. 2012
Type: American IPA
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: SuperValu (Ennistown)
Price: €3.59 (£3.08 approx.)