In partnership with O'Hara's Brewery
Tuesday 19 January 2021
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When talking to Seamus O’Hara from O’Hara’s Brewery, his passion for good beer shines through - he explains how O’Hara’s has been an integral fixture in the Irish beer scene for over two decades, and has enjoyed popularity overseas, too. Since its inception, a big priority has been exporting, to raise the profile of Irish beer around the world - as it stands, O’Hara’s sales are around 50% export and 50% domestic.
Getting people to taste good craft beer is one of Seamus’ prime concerns - he gleefully tells of the many music festivals, art events, comedy gigs, and cultural shindigs O’Hara’s has sponsored over the years, and notes his disappointment at not being able to do this in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. O’Hara’s Brewery also operates a pub in Kilkenny, not far from its home in County Carlow, plus a brewpub, bar and restaurant in Dublin called Urban Brewing (which in this beer writer’s humble opinion is one of the most unique and special venues I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, so seek it out if you can). In a country whose beer market is dominated by a certain popular dark beer, providing variety with well-made, readily-available, Irish-brewed beers, as O’Hara’s has been making sure it does, can only be a good thing.
Seamus excitedly talks about O’Hara’s new canning line, which will give more flexibility in terms of packaging, as a lot of the brewery’s resources go into bottling; it will also enable the brewing team to develop and expand its Craft Evolution series of beers and get more creative with small-batch brews, which - as well as pleasing the more discerning beer hipsters among us - will allow O’Hara’s to step further into the ‘craft’ market. It’s always had its feet in both camps, in terms of beer production - a strong focus on traditional Irish ales and stouts which have influenced its popular core range, but also on beer trends internationally, and keeping up with the latest in-demand craft beer styles.
The canning line will also allow O’Hara’s to nitrogenate its beer, which is a big plus point for Seamus, as it means that customers can enjoy a glass of beer at home which is as similar as possible to the beer they would be drinking in a pub, without the need for fancy draught lines. With ‘nitro’ beer, a mix of 70% nitrogen and 30% carbon dioxide creates teeny tiny bubbles, and gives certain styles like stouts and rich red ales that smooth, velvety, creamy feel - this was previously only possible in the pub, but thanks to advancements in packing technology breweries can replicate this in cans now.
Despite a dramatic shift in 2020 to focus primarily on the off-trade, the decline in a need to produce beer for the on-trade means the brewery has been able to ramp up its barrel-ageing programme and throw loads of its famous stout into tasty casks (which is great news for those of us who cannot resist a rich, dark, boozy beer!). The latest barrel-aged edition #9 sold out with really good feedback, so keep your eyes peeled for the next series, which will be out in early 2021.
In perhaps the most exciting news, though, Seamus talks proudly of how O’Hara’s - whose trading name is Carlow Brewing Company - has been in operation since 1996, which means that it will be celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Obviously, with the global pandemic meaning that big social events are still being postponed indefinitely, Seamus and his team have had to hold off making any exciting plans for now. But, they will certainly be doing something Covid-safe to mark this special milestone, and maybe even weaving it into St Patrick’s Day celebrations. O’Hara’s was one of Ireland’s first craft breweries, and to have been trading successfully for two and half decades is definitely something worth commemorating, however it can, even if it means waiting until later in the year!
The future may look uncertain, what with Covid still doing it’s thang, but one thing is for sure - O’Hara’s will have plenty of special releases throughout 2021 to mark its 25th birthday, so keep an eye on social media to get your hands on them.
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