Travel Writing by Cory Hanson

Celebrating Twenty Years of Brewing with O’Hara’s


“There’s a change in the air,” Dan tells me over the noise of the excited crowd. “Look how many showed up to celebrate with us!” Dan is a marketing specialist at O’Hara’s, one of Ireland’s largest and oldest craft beer labels. We are all gathered at the Bleeding Horse pub on Dublin’s Camden Street, celebrating the release of a new beer: Notorious.

Party Time O'Hara's Notorious

Party Time

The belle of the ball—a hoppy, full-flavored red IPA—is the first in a series of limited-edition beers celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Carlow Brewing Company. The O’Hara’s team is out in full force from their Bagenalstown HQ serving samples and talking about the complex malt bill and hop profile of Notorious to the many craft beer enthusiasts—including a running club enjoying a well-deserved post-workout pint—swarming the pub. Fiona, a graphic designer on the Carlow Brewing team, is on hand to take photos, but like me, she has to fight through a happy crowd to get her shots. She seems to be having more success. The live band booked to mark the occasion digs into the sweet sounds of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” and everyone is feeling good.

Of all the hop-heads celebrating the new brew, maybe none has felt this slow shift in the brewing scene more than Seamus O’Hara, “The Boss,” I’m told by sales representative Paddy. It must have been a scary proposition, opening a craft brewery in 1996 at the very (very) beginning of today’s surging craft beer movement.

The Boss tells me about Ireland’s changing beer culture: “Back then, there was very little market and very little competition; today, there’s a good market and lots of competition!” I try to put myself in the shoes of a beer drinker—American or Irish—in ’96. What would that first hoppy pale taste like? How about that complex imperial stout? Would I have been willing then—as I am now—to seek out and pay a premium for a really well-constructed ale over the old familiar lager?

Brewmasters Conor and Alan talk about Notorious, a careful blending of the big hop profile of an IPA with the roasted specialty malt character so associated with the traditional Irish red ale. “It’s easy to add too much and knock it out of balance,” Connor tells the now-lubricated gathering. Judging by the crowd’s appreciative reaction—and by my own taste buds—I’d say they got it right.

Among the O’Hara’s team and the other beer nuts, I hear excited whispers of more celebration beers yet to be released this year, and I make a note to keep an eye out for them in the coming months.

Thanks and congratulations to the great team at Carlow Brewing Company, and here’s to twenty more years of craft beer innovation!


  1. February 9, 2016    

    Article is so well written, Cory! Actually makes me interested in beer, which is something I haven’t really touched in about four years!

    • February 9, 2016    

      There are some exciting brews happening all over the island these days. Now’s a great time to get back into it!

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