Recently, Carlow Brewing Company, famous for their range of O’Hara’s Irish craft beers, invited the Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society for an exclusive brewery tour. Of course we were more than happy to take them up on the offer, as Carlow is one of Ireland’s oldest and biggest craft breweries and O’Hara’s one of Ireland’s best-known craft beers. The brewery was established in 1996 in Bagenalstown and has grown constantly throughout the years. It was expanded several times to meet rising demand. They now export to over 30 countries around the world. Compared to many other Irish craft breweries, Carlow Brewing Company is a giant, and it was a great opportunity to see Irish craft brewing on a much larger scale than we usually get to see.
Brewer Ciarán Kelly showed us around and took us through all the stages of the brewing process, explaining the steps carried out and the equipment used for each of them.
At the end of our tour, we got to try their fantastic seasonal beer, Winter Star, straight from the fermentation tanks. Ciarán first poured the unfiltered beer and then the filtered, final version.
Afterwards, we went up to the tasting room, where founder of the brewery, Seamus O’Hara joined us for a chat and we got to sample much of the O’Hara’s range, including some beers that are exclusively brewed for export and are not available in Ireland.
The highlight of the day for me was trying this year’s batch of Winter Star in 3 different versions - unfiltered, filtered, and from the bottle in the tasting room. It’s a spiced amber ale which is perfect for the Christmas season. It has lovely coconut notes when you try it first, and as it warms up a bit, it continues to bring out different spicy notes. Cinnamon becomes prominent after a few minutes and the beer just keeps evolving. Take your time with it and you will discover a new spice with every sip. I will be stocking up on Winter Star for Christmas and I would definitely recommend it as a must-have festive tipple.