A pint of O’Hara’s stout, reverentially viewed. Photo by Dan Hauser | IST.




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RYAN SMITH brews, drinks and writes about craft beer in New York City.



April 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Beer

O’Hara’s Irish Stout

Old-Fashioned Flavors Shine In One Of The Best Stouts



CAPSULE REPORT: Ask people to name a stout, and Dublin’s Guinness, the world’s best-seller, will come to most lips. But O’Hara’s, which made its debut some 200 years later, is brewed in a centuries-old style that pleases connoisseurs. It’s brewed far away from Dublin, in the small town of Carlow.

Stout, that delicious and enchanting ink-black elixir, has been brewed in Ireland since Arthur Guinness opened his doors in mid-18th century Dublin. Contrary to what some might think, Guinness is not the only stout brewed in the Emerald Isle. Carlow Brewing Company, a relatively new Irish brewery founded by brothers Seamus and Eamon O’Hara in 1998, brews beers based on traditional flavors that date back centuries. O’Hara’s Irish Stout, their flagship beer, is an award-winning brew that, in the words of renowned beer writer Stephen Beaumont, “recalls the way certain Irish stouts once tasted.” And it also happens to be one of the best stouts I’ve ever encountered, as well. 

Seamus O’Hara was, as he said, “raised on Guinness.” But in the 1980s, his post-college travels revealed to him a wide world of brews beyond those that he had encountered at home. “Ireland had a limited range of beers at the time,” O’Hara told me recently during a visit to New York City. “But I had always been interested in beer. And after I was exposed to the real ales in the U.K. and the incredible variety of beers in Belgium, and after I was first introduced to the microbrewing scene in the U.S., it showed me that I could [open a brewery].”

And so in 1998, armed with renewed confidence—and a degree in biotechnology (no small thing, given the amount of chemistry involved in brewing beer)—Seamus and his brother Eamon built a brewery in a converted stone building in their hometown of Carlow, located in County Carlow, in Ireland’s Barrow Valley. According to Seamus, the area had once been home to several breweries, and was, for a long time, Ireland’s primary hops and malt-growing region. 

“There’s a lot of heritage in that area, and we wanted to tap into that,” notes Seamus.  “We wanted to revive the brewing tradition there.” 

County Carlow, highlighted in white, is in southeast Ireland.

Their intent in forming Carlow Brewing was not to compete with the larger Irish breweries such as Murphy’s or Guinness, which had by then made massive inroads not just in Ireland, but around the world (Guinness is now part of Diageo, the world’s largest alcoholic beverage conglomerate). “We were not interested in being a fly on the elephant’s back,” Seamus said. “We wanted to brew something to appeal to people who are looking for something different. We wanted to produce a traditional stout, and so we went back to the basics.”

O'Hara's Irish Stout

They embraced the craft brewing ethos—flavor first—and applied it to their initial batches of O’Hara’s Stout, which they first brewed under the watchful eye of Liam McKenna, an experienced brewer who helped the brothers achieve the flavors and textures they were seeking in their beers. “We wanted to brew something flavorsome, but not over the top,” Seamus recalls.  “It needed to have a balance between the sweetness and the hops.”  After a brief testing period, the brothers settled on their recipe, and they’ve been brewing O’Hara’s Stout steadily since.

And how does it taste? 

Delicious—and unlike any other stout you’ve probably ever had, unless you happened to have lived in Ireland a century or two ago. 

O’Hara’s is brewed with more roast barley than other stouts, giving it a rich, buttery bite with a dry finish. It is beautifully balanced, with pronounced roasted malt flavor that gives way to a subtle, espresso-like sweetness. And, unlike many other types of stout, you can actually taste the hops. O’Hara’s is brewed using Challenger, Goldings and Willamette hops, varieties which contribute to its pleasantly bitter flavor, without overwhelming the palate. 

In addition to O’Hara’s stout, Carlow Brewing Company also makes a wheat beer (based on the American hefe-weizens Seamus encountered when he was in the U.S.), a traditional Irish red ale, and a recently-released Celebration Stout. To meet growing demand, the company will soon quadruple its brewing capacity by moving into new facilities in Bagenalstown, also in County Carlow.


Pairing O’Hara’s Stout With Food

O’Hara’s pairs well with strongly-flavored cheeses, smoked fish, and cured meats. We enjoyed a few pints with a charcuterie platter filled with salami, smoked pork loin, and prosciutto, and the saltiness of the prosciutto, in particular, paired well with the beer’s bittersweet flavors. 

We also paired the stout with some cheeses, including an aged cheddar, a Danish blue cheese, and Brie.  The boldness of the stout complemented the strong flavors of the cheddar and the blue cheeses, and the creaminess of the Brie matched well with the beer’s own velvety texture. 

Try these recipes with your O’Hara’s:

If you don’t already know it, you’ll also learn the difference between bruschetta and crostini! If you’d like to learn more about pairing beer and cheese, click on the link in the red box below.

A delicious, colorful antipasto platter is easy
to create and serve with O’Hara’s Irish Stout. See the recipe, courtesy of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma.




O’Hara’s Irish Stout


  • 12-Ounce Bottle


O’Hara's Irish Stout is available at fine retailers nationwide, and online at:

For more information visit

O'Hara's Stout



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© Copyright 2005-2024 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.