So it's come to this - The Irish Ale Challenge final. I honestly can't remember where I bought the beers below. The O'Haras and Dungarvan and fairly widely available in Off Licenses and Supermarkets, the other two, not so much. For the uninitiated, here are links to SemiFinals1&2 and SemiFinals3&4
The finalists are as follows (l-r):
Independent Red Ale 50 cl 4.5% abv - €3.59 link
Kinnegar Devil's Backbone Amber Ale 50 cl 4.9% abv - €3.79 link
O'Hara's Irish Red 50cl 4.3% abv - €3.29 link
Dungarvan Copper Coast Irish Red Ale 50cl 4.3% abv - €3.39 link
As usual, the format of the final is a blind tasting, with Herself being my own personal Debbie McGee for the evening. I'm hoping that the colours of the ales aren't too much of a giveaway - IIRC the Kinnegar is a noticeably amber colour and a couple of the others are a fairly full on brownish red. I genuinely have no favourite here and I hope it will be a good contest.
Here are the beers - looks like a game of two halves, Brian. Numbers one and two are dark as pitch whereas three and four have a distinctly amber hue. Here are Your Humble Blogger's (and Herself's) tasting notes, verbatim.
YHB - like it, good bitterness, nice maltiness and a long finish -
Herself - likes it but finds it a bit gentle
Guess - Independent
YHB - OK - very pleasant, very smooth and quaffable. Improves after a few minutes of warming up
Herself - Likes
Guess - O'Haras
YHB - Nice, subtle flavour, smooth.
Herself - Loves this
Guess - Dungarvan
YHB - Good, bit more zing to it than #3
Herself - Likes
Guess - Kinnegar
So it's between #1 and #2. As much as I enjoyed #3 and #4, I'm loving the full body and flavour of the darker ales, although both need to be poured with some vigour to generate a few bubbles.
This is a tough one. Both are well balanced with a decent malty spine; #1 has a hoppiness that's not present in #2, but #2 is incredibly smooth and shows more appealing character after about 30 minutes out of the fridge.
I'm going to give it to #1. The balance between the malt and the hops, the body and the finish just shades #2 smoothness. So now for the big reveal - What was the winner and how accurate was I with my guesses?
So the winner, by a nose, is Independent Red Ale followed by O'Haras Irish Red , with the two amber/copper ales in joint bronze (fittingly). On a related note, I got all four correct, which wasn't that difficult, once the colours were visible, only requiring two correct guesses, given that I had a fair idea which beer was which colour.
To be honest, all four are very tasty drops, with your own preference for darker fuller ales or (relatively) lighter amber ales driving your choices. That's it for me for a while. I'm off to the states for a well deserved holiday where I will attempt to sample as many of America's craft beers as possible.
I may, in my wisdom, do an Irish Golden Ale competition next - watch this space.