There’s been an explosion of Irish Whiskeys finished in a growing variety of Irish Beer Casks.
I welcome the diversity & exploration of flavours emanating from these collaborations – especially when the beers in question tend to be locally produced craft beers such as the Cotton Ball Stout used in this new Hyde #8 release.
Now I usually like to taste the donor beer – but in this instance the closest I got was this lágar from Cotton Ball Brewing.
Rather than picking up the bitter or slightly burnt notes often found in a stout – Hyde #8 has a noticeable sweet caramel nose together with a smooth & rich honeyed palate rounded up with a darker & heavier biscuity malt feel.
If you manage to build your distillery the next issue is warehouses to store the new make distillate for the required 3 years until it becomes whiskey. Great Northern Distillery are still on the hunt for storage after their plans were knocked back in County Louth.
Teeling looks outside Louth for €20m whiskey warehouse
If you manage to overcome these hurdles – yet more await.
What are you going to call your whiskey?
A certain well known Dublin personality had hoped to call his whiskey ‘Notorious’ – but there happened to be a beer already on the market with that name.
What else could I do but pop down to my local O’Briens to purchase a few for tasting?
O’Hara’s are one of the original craft beer makers in Ireland. Founded in 1996 they were ahead of the pack and have grown with the times. Now a major player in the craft beer market they produce a varied range of porters, lagers, ales & IPA’s – as well as opening a bar in Kilkenny.
Their Notorious Red IPA is an amalgam of 2 popular styles of beer.
Red Ale is a relatively light ale usually showing a reddish hue. Notes of malt, soft caramel with a gentle smoke from the roasted malts often used coming through too.
IPA – or Indian Pale Ale to give the original definition – is the hot ticket in the craft beer world. The high hop content displays varying degrees of bitterness ranging from fresh citrussy summer notes to deeper almost woody pine flavours.
I must admit my palate is not a fan of IPA – the bitterness puts me off – but I do enjoy a Red Ale now and then.
So with that caveat in mind – how did I find the Notorious Red IPA?
A decent Red Ale ruined by the hoppy bitterness.
I did reach out to a self declared IPA fan – in the interests of balance – to get a view from the other side.
My local branch of O’Briens Wines in Athlone organised a Summer Tasting recently.
They invited a plethora of nearby craft beer producers – as well as a slightly more widespread coterie of spirits & whiskey distillers.
I simply had to go along!
Many familiar faces were encountered on the craft beer stalls.
Black Donkey were showcasing their latest limited edition release – Underworld. Savage Ale indeed.
12 Acres had their Single Malt lager. Dead Centre had some good news regarding planning permission for their town centre brewery/restaurant development. Boyne Brewhouse had some award winning beers. I even enjoyed a Miami J IPA from Rye River Brewing – despite not being an IPA fan – mainly as the hops were softer in the mix which accentuated the summer fruitiness.
Larkins from Wicklow were the only newcomers to me and I sampled some their interesting takes on the lager front.
On the spirits & whiskey front I had some brief chats with the Teeling & Connacht stands having tasted most of their excellent product before. I was tempted by Connacht’s Concullin Oak Aged Gin – mainly because of the whiskey like appearance – and did discern some oak influence in among the unfamiliar to me at least gin flavours.
Galway Gin Co were also in attendance – but for me the main attractions were the stalls offering whiskey I’d never tried before – like Ha’Penny Whiskey on the Pearse Lyons Distillery stand.
Now it was made clear Ha’Penny Whiskey – along with it’s stablemate Ha’Penny Gin & Mil Gin too – are all sourced spirits for the Pearse Distillery who market them to a different audience than the Pearse Whiskey range which was also on display.
The Ha’Penny Whiskey had that very attractive warmth I associate with charred casks maturaton. Only on closer inspection of the label was it revealed 4 different types of cask were used to mature this very flavousome blend; port pipes, sherry butts, bourbon barrels & double charred.
Very nice results too. Giving it a richness of depth & flavour not usually found in an attractively priced blend.
Midleton happened to be next door with their Method & Madness range – well 3 of them at least. How could I resist a vertical taste test?
The Single Grain continues to excite me with the warm notes of virgin oak contrasting with the clearer, fresher grain influence. The Single Malt doesn’t pull me in as much – but what’s this? – the latest Hungarian Oak matured Single Pot Still?
My my my!
Rich, warm and inviting. A softly growing spice to tantalise & tease. Great depth of flavour with a lovely long lasting finish to remind you of the beauty you’ve just enjoyed.
Now I could easily take this one home with me!
O’Briens offered a reduction on certain items on the evening so I – and many others – availed of this service and didn’t go away empty handed.
Much appreciation to all the stall holders on the night.
And a BIG UP to all the O’Briens staff in Athlone for putting together such a wonderful showcase of the fabulous beers, spirits & whiskey that abounds in Ireland today.