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Can Irish beer compete?

It is interesting to see if Ireland can stand up to some of the other countries when it comes to craft beer but also to look at some of the less well known countries and how they fair in the current market.

So to test this theory I have decided to compare two craft beers, both a Red Beer to see how one compares to the other.

So to kick off I thought I would start with a European beer. I have gone with Švyturys- Baltijos Dark Red. This beer is brewed and bottled in Lithuania and costs around €2.79 for a 500ml bottle (based on a Dublin Tesco on the 6th November 2012).

his beer has a 5.8% ABV, making it a fairly strong beer. It has no real distinguishing odour to it to make it stand out and is a dark red/brown in colour. Baltijos is a full flavoured beer with a refreshing quality to it. It has a bitter taste and a slight taste of hops, but on the whole rather smooth. This is also a fairly sweet beer compared to many others that are available and to me has a slight liquorice taste to it.

I found this to be a very interesting beer, having the balance of bitter with sweet, but if anything was probably a little too sweet for me. It was on the whole a smooth beer, with very little carbonation to it, making it quite refreshing, if you can get used to its sweet quality. There is a little bitterness as a finishing note but very little to remember it by. On the whole this is not really a beer that I could see myself drinking very often and would only recommend it to people who prefer a sweeter beer, rather than perhaps a very hoppy beer. I would only give this beer 2 out of 5.

Now to move on from Europe and back to Ireland, to a well-established brewery. The beer I have chosen is O’Hara’s – Irish Red. This beer is brewed and bottled in Co.Carlow, Ireland and costs around €1.79 for a 500ml bottle (based on a Dublin Tesco on the 6th of November 2012).

This beer has a 4.3% ABV, and so it not as strong as the Baltijos. This beer has a subtle aroma of caramel and is a dark brown with a red tint. Irish red is a great beer, deep in flavour, bitter with a strong hops feel. This beer leaves a slight bitter after taste and a slight taste of caramel. Irish Red is a brilliant beer with its rich established flavour, with a slight sweetness. This beer has a real smooth taste, again with little carbonation. On the whole this is a fantastic beer with a real warming quality to it, a beer that could be enjoyed nicely in the coming weeks as the cold winter nights start to creep in. I would give this beer 4 out of 5.

One of the main differences between these two beers is the full bodied flavour. The Irish red packs a real punch with flavour compared to that of the Baltijos. There is also a surprising difference in price between the two. The cheaper beer in this case is by far more worth the money that you pay for it, if anything I would say that the Irish Red is under-priced and deserves a lot more credit for being a really great tasting beer.

Both of these beers share a sweetness that is not always evident in other craft beers; however the Baltijos is a lot sweeter. I personally found it too sweet and prefer the more down to earth, deep flavour of the Irish Red.

The second major difference between these two beers is the ABV. The Irish Red is 1.5% less than the Baltijos, however after tasting them, you would never get this from the taste and flavour. This is also a strength of the Baltijos, that a stronger beer is able to taste more refined and less over powering, however this comes at a cost with the increased sweetness.

To summarise the title of this review, Ireland can most definitely stand up for itself when it comes to the production of craft beers and in this case out shines the European beer by a long way. In this current market it is great to see a small Irish brewery make a real name for itself and produce some fantastic beers. The market is always looking for new and exciting brewers and breweries to come up with exciting new beers and for me Ireland is doing a brilliant job at providing this innovation in beer production. I predict great things are to come with small Irish breweries and to keep an eye out for some inventive and exciting beers in the near future.

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