O’Briens Wine Beer & Spirits
33 Spruce Avenue Stillorgan Industrial Park Co. Dublin Ireland Ireland
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whiskey pairing

  • A Right Pair

    This week I’m taking a look at Whiskey and craft beer pairing and for the week that’s in it sticking to all things Irish. Far from a whiskey chaser quickly washed down with a beer we are looking at beers and whiskeys that work well together and compliment both.

    The reason whiskey and beer pair so well is because, in essence, a whiskey is a beer that has been distilled, where the evaporation separates the alcohol from the other components. The aging in oak creates another layer of flavours and aromas in the whiskey with can pair beautifully with many craft beer styles.

    To create a good match you want to seek out flavours that work in harmony with each other or where the contrast works to heighten the experience and where sipping each in turn draws your attention to an element of the beer or whiskey. Firstly take a sip of the whiskey and let it sit on your tongue as the flavours envelop your mouth, swallow and appreciate the finish. Only then take a sip of the beer and see how the flavours interact with each other.

    Here are a few of my own matches, of course everyone’s palate differs but there is so much choice with Irish whiskey and craft beers there is something for everyone.

    Our exclusive limited release form Teelings


    Writers Tears Single Malt Red Head with Killarney Scarlet Pimpernel

    In general, you should probably stay away from IPAs where the bitterness overpowers the flavours of the whiskey, however, I find the orange fruit note that grows on the finish of the excellent Red Head melds with the orange pith bitterness of the Killarney Scarlet Pimpernel while its smooth finish draws you in for another sip of whiskey.


    Teeling Single Cask Amarone with Third Circle Red Ale

    For our own exclusive bottling from Teelings, we finished a 10 year old single malt in Italian Amarone wine barrels. This gives a berry and dried fruit character alongside marzipan and spice. This works beautifully with the red berry and toasted caramel of Third Circle’s Red Ale.


    Powers 3 Swallow Release with Franciscan Well Friar Weisse

    This classically styled single pot still whiskey throws out some wonderfully delicate orange peel and sweet spices that are such a great match for the banana, citrus and clove of the Franciscan Well Friar Weisse, creating a host of intermingled flavours.


    Irishman 12 year old with 9 White Deer Stag Saor Stout

    This is a classic combination. The Irishman is matured exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels which lend a rich sweet vanilla character throughout the taste, before finishing with fudge and dark chocolate. This is picked up by the Madagascan vanilla and cacao nibs used in brewing this soft smooth stout.


    Connemara Peated Malt with 12 Acres Single Malt Lager

    Here I’ve gone for contrast where the full-bodied peat whiskey is lifted by the delicate Kolsch style beer with the whiskeys smoky character persisting to the delicate spicy hop finish on the beer.


    You will find these whiskeys on offer in our Irish Whiskey Sale and we also have an offer of 6 for the price of 5 across our Irish Craft Beer Sale. Of course, if you would like to experiment with your pairings we have lots to choose from for a great St Patricks Day and beyond.

    Enjoy a sensible St Patricks Day with an Irish craft beer and Irish whiskey

  • Whiskey & Food Pairing

    When planning your drinks accompaniment to your dinner menu why not consider whiskey?

    While whiskey is typically enjoyed on its own, or you may have tried traditional Irish pot still with smoked salmon, it may surprise you how versatile whiskey is. With so many different expressions and variations there is a lot to play around with when pairing with food. There is no hard and fast science to food pairing as everyone’s tastes differ however there are a few tried and trusted guidelines.

    As with pairing all food and alcohol seek to complement or contrast flavours. You don’t always try to match flavours but rather create a balance in the pairing where neither the whiskey nor food is overpowered. In general, avoid overly spicy food as the alcohol intensifies the spiciness and over powers the flavour of the whiskey. Food cooked in oil or fat works well with the heat of the higher alcohol.

    Whiskey and chocolate make a great match

    Also, think about the weight and texture of the dish, matching lighter whiskey with a lighter dish and heavier with heavier. The principles of wine matching can also be applied to whiskey pairing. Substitute white wine for lighter pot still or grain whiskeys for red wine substitute whiskeys that have a sherry cask or charred barrel influence that tend to have darker fuller flavours.

    If in doubt, there are a couple of foods that work with most whiskies. In general whiskey works well with salty foods, simple bar snacks like mixed nuts or crisps. Experiment with different flavoured crisps to see what they bring out in the whiskey. Another classic food pairing is dark chocolate, go for chocolate with a high cocoa content and rest the whiskey in your mouth allowing the alcohol to evaporate lifting the flavours before tasting the chocolate.

    Here are three of my own pairing favourites.

    The sweetness of the sherry maturation makes Black Bush a great match for red meat like venison or steak. The heavier body of sherry cask whiskies compliments more powerful flavours of meat dishes, while the addition of some grain in this blend adds a little lightness and makes it a little more approachable. If you are preparing a sauce add a small dash to create synergy.

    The Whistler 10 year old again has sherry cask finish but longer maturation in ex-bourbon. The earthy, savoury and hint of saltiness works well with lighter seafood dishes while matching with dark chocolate brings out the sweeter spice in the whiskey.

    Sweet and fruity grain whiskeys work well with deserts where the lighter intensity and body balances the lighter dish. However, I have gone for something a little bigger and richer with West Cork Distillers Black Cask, a blend of two thirds grain with one third malt whiskey before finishing in extra charred casks. This finish adds more vanilla sweetness to the blend that works exceptionally well with rich chocolate baked deserts.

    Hope I have given you some inspiration for your next bottle. All three of the above are included in our big Irish Whiskey Sale. We have over 40 Irish whiskeys on offer, starting March 1st.


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