Starting off with a recent launch from Smithwicks is Winter Spirit. I was invited to the launch, a fairly low key event with about 20-30 people. I'm often amazed at the people invited to these things. They are often not only clueless about beer, they simply don't drink it! Anyway, the talk itself was by the master brewer, Alan Dempsey and that was worth attending. He basically told us the ingredients for all three beers in the Smithwicks range, the most interesting of which is the Pale Ale. How does it taste? Well to me it tasted like regular Smithwicks probably should. Basically it's the same beer with more roast barley than the regular version. It's pleasant and inoffensive but that's about it. A step up from the regular stuff perhaps. It's only 4.5% so perfectly sessionable.
I was happily sent a bottle of O'Hara's DIPA to sample, by sent I mean that Seamus O'Hara saw it in the post room and brought it to me personally since he was meeting me that evening to talk about the ICBCF. I never let the bias of free beer alter what I write though. This is the first real attempt at the DIPA style in Ireland, although at 7.5% we are only at the beginning of the ABV scale for the style. The beer pours an amber colour and is clear with a white head. Aroma is caramel dominated with some citrus breaking through. A strong caramel forward body followed by a sweet middle and a fairly bitter finish with plenty of citrus and orange pith throughout. It's a lovely beer and very moreish, not to mention dangerously drinkable. The only quality it lacks is in the aroma department. The beer itself has been around since March but this is the first time it has appeared in bottle.