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.
There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.
I welcome this development.
It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.
The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.
The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.
There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.
Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.
Having reviewed a Jim Beam non whiskey product – it’s only fair – and in the interests of impartiality – that I feature a Jack Daniel’s non whiskey product too.
Well – I say non whiskey – as this cider is a blend of ‘Crisp Apple Cider’ with some of Jack’s Tennessee Whiskey.
I don’t mind a cider now and then – especially on a warm summers evening – but I must admit to preferring a dry style of cider – not too sweet either – so I approached this bottle with none too high expectations.
Both Jack & Jim allow their logo’s to be used on many a product. It’s a great way to promote the brand. But often that product bears no relevance or connection to the original bourbons which are the core expressions of those brands.
Jack’s Cider poured clean & fresh.
It was very pale in colour. The nose was definitely cider. A bit of dry apple mixed in with enough of a hint of bourbon to give a lift to the experience.
The taste was satisfyingly refreshing. Not too sweet. That crisp dry apple coming through and combining gently with that sticky sweetness associated with a pour of Old No. 7.
There’s no real complexity here. It’s a simple bourbon infused cider. But it does exactly what it says on the label & certainly appealed to me as a refreshing alternative to a whiskey on a balmy warm night.
If this summer heatwave continues I might be tempted to indulge in a little more ‘smooth sippin’ courtesy of Jack!
1 – Caribou, a four legged animal prone to herding during annual migrations across it’s North American range. Mainly eats lichens.
2 – Caribou, a recently opened bar in the Wood Quay area of Galway that stocks an amazing array of craft beers, gins & whiskeys.
Pick your poison.
a) Craft Beer as in Commotion Lotion.
A delightfully fruity easy summer drinking lager from the Wexford based Yellow Belly Beer in collaboration with pop punksters King Kong Company.
b) Whisky as in Scapa Skiren.
A sweet, smooth honey laden single malt from the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland.
Throw in a hard working yet friendly & informative bar crew.
Fill with an eclectic mix of;
i – Herds of bearded hipsters gathering – like the aforementioned Caribou – to graze on the amber nectar of craft beers along with their tattooed love birds.
ii – Whiskey geeks discussing the merits of non-chilled filtration & the de-merits of added caramel whilst sniffing, nosing & actually getting round to drinking the expressions before them!
iii – Music fans chilling out to the funky tunes played on the sound system contrasting the perfectly professional yet perfunctory performance of Radiohead at Glastonbury with the wild youthful exuberance of Otherkin at Slane.
Finish with a solid wooden bar filled with craft beer taps, comfortable tables, chairs & the odd sofa to relax in, board games to play with & a lovely floral display outside.
I choose Caribou – the bar.
I choose to sample both poisons – and more from an excellent range.
I choose to go back after my first visit on the ‘Hit The North‘ whiskey distillery tour.
I choose to be that whiskey geek accompanied by the music maestro enjoying the best Caribou has to offer.
The former army barracks & parade ground are now a growing tourist attraction building on the new found harmony in Northern Ireland after years of conflict.
Building 70, a former Pay Office, is now home to Walled City Brewery, combining a craft brewery with a restaurant & bar – this was our destination for the evening.
Opened in May 2015 by master brewer James Huey and his wife Louise, James brought his years of experience working with Guinness to branch out on his own – and he also runs a Homebrew Academy too!
Very attractively furnished with a bottled motif wall, historical beer map, beer bottle chandeliers & a comfy dining area along with a well stocked bar – Walled City Brewery certainly made us feel at home.
A large hanging chalk board proudly proclaims about 10 beers available on tap. Some are Walled City’s own – with others from White Hag in Sligo & Kinnegar in nearby Donegal.
I went for ‘Kicks’ a Walled City pilsner named after Derry’s finest group – The Undertones.
This flavoursome tipple perfectly accompanied a trio of Pintxos for starters followed by a juicy lamb burger for mains.
There were plenty of other beers to try. Walled City offer a tasting tray to sample a few which is always a great way to familiarise yourself with a range of styles and flavours.
The whiskey menu also impressed.
Covering all 4 styles of Irish whiskey – Blended, Single Grain, Single Malt & Single Pot Still – from Glendalough, Teeling, Derry’s own Quiet Man – who are planning to build a distillery on Ebrington Square – Echlinville and a couple of Spot whiskeys – they certainly tempted me. But a trio of American bourbons – not all of which I’d tried before – caught my eye.
Sadly a tasting flight of whiskey wasn’t on the menu – as yet – so I chose the Hudson Baby Bourbon for afters.
At 46% this 100% corn bourbon from a craft distillery in upstate New York gave a rich sweet nose with a full bodied mouthfeel. It packed a lovely heat on the palate finishing with a gentle spice & warm finish. If only all bourbons were as good as this!
Feeling fully sated & gently merry we recrossed the Peace Bridge in the growing winds admiring the starry lights of Derry which is attractively built on gently rolling hills.
I’m certainly looking forward to the growth of Walled City Brewery & the nearby Quiet Man Distillery.
My first impressions of Hudson Whiskey were also positive – I will definitely check them out on my next encounter.