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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": O'Hara's Irish Stout

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 14, 2007 3:00PM

2007_03_botw11.jpgTwo years ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Bob Lempinen, an executive Vice President at Distinguished Brands International. Distinguished Brands imports O'Hara's Irish Stout in the U.S. Lempinen insisted that O'Hara's was better than Guinness. We thought it was nothing more than him pushing his portfolio hard - he said that about all the beers he carried - and went along our way. Months passed, at a friend's birthday party we had the opportunity of lifting a couple pints of O'Hara's at Carmichael's Steak House, and damned if Lempinen wasn't right. While we won't shy away from a pint of Guinness, we've since sought out other stouts, keeping an eye out for O'Hara's whenever possible.

O'Hara's (known outside the U.S. as "O'Hara Celtic Stout") is the creation of biotechnologist and brewer Seamus O'Hara. O'Hara developed an interest in craft brewing after being exposed to the American microbrew boom of the '90s. In 1998, O'Hara and his brothers created the Carlow Brewing company with a goal of finding a middle ground between the creative freedom of the home brewer and the business models of larger breweries. O'hara's Irish stout, the flagship beer, is such a revelation. Irish stouts are noted for their coffee flavor and slightly sour aftertaste. Before modern advances in brewing like stainless steel equipment became the norm, lactic acid was added to stouts to ward off contamination (Guinness still adds lactic acid). You won't find it in O'Hara's, which leaves more room for the other flavors to come out, like the roast barley, chocolate, and coffee. In our post on whiskeys, creams, and stouts from last year, we said that O'Hara's makes Guinness taste like a "three-day-old cup of coffee." It's no exaggeration. O'Hara's actually tastes like a strong espresso.

It's a creamy stout, one of the thickest Irish stouts we've ever tasted. O'Hara's lacing clings to the glass like a suckling infant. The color is a deep black with some ruby accents when raised to light. Carmichael's has since replaced O'hara's with the more recognizable Guinness. However, a quick search found six-packs available for $9.99 at Binny's. Seamus O'Hara will also be in town this weekend to celebrate your Holy Day, and spread the word about O'Hara's Irish Stout. Friday, he'll be leading a pub crawl that starts at 5 p.m. from McCormick & Schmick's on East Wacker, with stops at Hackney's Printer's Row, Elephant & Castle's West Adams and Lake/Wabash locations, Chief O'Neill's Pub, and the baby-friendly Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro. Saturday, O'hara will start off his day with a 9 a.m. Irish breakfast at McCormick & Schmick's Wacker Drive location, then leading a procession of the Chicago O'Hara's in the St. Patrick's Day parade, and back to McCormick & Schmick's, where the Shannon Rovers will give everyone tinnitus.

They say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, but we still feel half-Greek, quarter-English, quarter-German, and all-American. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't let those who think they're Irish stop you from enjoying a frosty glass of O'Hara's Irish stout, Chicagoist's "beer of the week."

Image courtesy of Binny's Beverage Depot.