The Collaboration Tour rolls on this year with a visit to Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet from our good friends at O’Hara’s / Carlow Brewing, the largest craft brewery in Ireland.

After brewing and releasing Foreign Affair Session Red IPA (inspired in part by Reviver Red IPA) in Ireland last year, Carlow’s head brewer, Conor Donoghue, came across the pond to brew a U.S.-based collaboration.

Where Foreign Affair was brewed and released for the 4th of July in Ireland, this new brew will be unveiled and featured at Starr Hill’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration on March 19th.

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For this Virginia-based collaboration, Brewmaster Robbie O’Cain was inspired to craft a classic Irish Export Stout in the tradition of the higher gravity styles, particularly O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Extra Irish Stout. Robbie and Conor built a recipe using Maris Otter Crystal and Chocolate malts, Golden Oats, and East Kent Goldings hops.

IMG_0717The collaboration will be named Blackthorn, a nod to an ancient Celtic tradition of celebrating the changing of the seasons. Each year, the blooming of blackthorn in Ireland signaled the start of Spring. Blackthorn wood is also commonly used when making the shillelagh, the traditional wooden walking stick associated with Irish folklore.

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IMG_0731Brewer Timmy (see Production Team) worked alongside Robbie and Conor by milling, mashing in, and adding the Golden Oats to give this wonderfully rich, dark stout a creamy mouthfeel. The finished product promises to be a robust, full-flavored stout with a smooth body.

During the brew day, our local NBC station stopped by to chat with Robbie and Conor about the collaboration. Check out the video on their website.

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In honor of our cross-Atlantic collaboration, we invited our friends from the Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries Facebook group and their founder, David Hunter, to the Tap Room for a special, interactive Q&A with both Robbie and Conor.

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IMG_0801An evening of great conversation covered brewing scenes in both Ireland and Virginia/U.S. and other topics like Irish brewing history, trends of new styles in the US, and how to push each industry forward. Questions were taken from the live audience, as well as from fans following the event online from the Facebook group.

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A big thanks to Conor and the team at O’Hara’s/Carlow for helping put together this tremendous collaboration, and also to David and the Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries for an awesome event! We can’t wait to share Blackthorn Irish Export Stout with everyone at our St. Paddy’s Day celebration next month. Until then… Sláinte!