Seamus O’Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company, located along the River Barrow in the MIdlands of Ireland, says there is a reason for the Emerald's Isle long association with stout.
“The water here is very hard,” the award winning craft brewer says, “Its limestone based so its very good for stouts and ales. It adds to the texture and the mouth feel. We have good water for brewing that kind of beer.”
Carlow Brewery is one of the many brewers that attended the 2015 Toronto Festival of Beer. The annual event takes place at Exhibition Place July 24, 25 and 26. There is a special focus on all things Irish and ten brewers are out to show the Emerald is more than green beer and Guinness. O’Hara says he will be bringing their flagship stout.
With our craft brewing approach," says O'Hara, "we are brewing the way it used to be done. People taste it and say thats how a stout used to taste. Its still fashionable to drink stout, good stouts are, but there’s a little more to it. Things are changing.”
O’Hara has been at the forefront of the change since he first opened in 1999. He says it was the fact of a few breweries dominating the market that spurred him to action. His background in biotechnology had given him an introduction and it was just a matter of finding like-minded beer fanatics.
“I studied biotech at college and as part of that we studied brewing and we had a pilot plant brewery. I didn’t immediately go into the brewing industry, I went into the pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare," he says. "The first few jobs I had were in England and I was exposed to the beer culture there, cask-condition beers in the pubs, all the regional beers, and it was only when I came back home that I realised we had just a limited choice. We have a history of it. People around the world think of us as a great beer country but we have little going on. So there was an opportunity, to take inspiration from the U.S. They were blazing a trail and that you can set up your own brewery. A couple of guys can get together and do it and that’s what happened with us. I had a bit of knowledge from biotech studies and from home brewing and felt there was an opportunity and as a personal consumer I wanted to see more interesting beers. So why not start brewing your own.”
The rapid growth in craft breweries and new beers has to be tempered with a warning that beer making is not for everyone he says. There is a reason why it’s called craft. It is a trade that has to be learned and it’s not a short road to riches.
“Many of the people who come into the craft brewing industry, who set up their own breweries, they are very individualistic. They are very determined and ambitious but want to do their own thing. But they are very hard working and passionate about it. Anybody’s who is not is doomed to failure because it’s not an easy industry to be in. Most of the people who come into it are very passionate about it. They love the beer. They love what they are doing. They embrace the whole thing,” he says.
O’Hara says their draft beer will be available for embracing soon in Canada. If you find yourself enjoying the natural original stout taste of the Old Irish you can now plan on enjoying even more of it after the festival has closed up for another year.