"It's the Same Old Shillelagh"

Brewery and Country of Origin: Watch City Brewing Company of 256 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453, USA

Date Reviewed: 11-26-13

Ok, we know it's only two days before beautiful Thanksgiving, and it was exactly one year ago that we reviewed a beer which reminded us of the trials and tribulations of Black Friday. But as you are all probably aware, we're huge fans of St. Paddy's Day. So rather than go on about people getting turkey induced food comas, crazy shoppers shooting strangers for XBox Ones or PS4s, or eternal holiday traffic, we're here to bring you some history of the lovely Shillelagh. It's a fun word to say, and in Gaelic, it means "Descendants of Ealach." In the 1800s, the word became associated with a type of prized walking stick made of blackthorn (a fruit bearing tree, or the misspelling of a resort in the Catskills) and used for settling disputes. How? Well, colonial America had the pistol, 19th century Japan had the katana, and Ireland had the Shillelagh, used to strike people with force. Somehow, this was seen as a "gentlemanly" way of resolving conflict (instead of a fist fight, a discussion over a few pints, or an MOU). Either way, shillelagh fighting (the use of a heavy stick to hit people in physical conflict) has been in practice for thousands of years according to historians. There are three typical lengths quite vague in description (one that was long (the length of a normal walking stick), one about half that size, and a short one about a foot in length). At the end of the stick was a heavy wooden knob which was used to make a strike in a similar fashion to a mallet(this was sometimes weighted with lead to increase inflicted damage). Normal shillelaghs weighed about two pounds. Since their widespread usage in the 19th century, shillelaghs have become associated with Ireland and Irish Folklore. There are many references to the stick in modern culture, particularly in both sports and the military. The logo of the Boston Celtics, as well as many logos for rugby teams across Ireland and Australia, feature leprechauns with shillelaghs. Martin Marietta (predecessor to defense contractor Lockheed Martin) named their 1960s anit-tank missile after the stick. The US Army's 69th Infantry Regiment from New York carries shillelaghs as rank badges in parades. And officers of the Irish Guards of Northern Ireland are issued shillelaghs as standard (traditional). They are also given out as awards or ceremonial gifts. And while all of this seems quite sophisticated, we think we'd still prefer to settle our differences over a pint, rather than a concussion.
Date Sampled: 9-20-13 At: Watch City Brewing Company Brewpub, 256 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453, USA
Beer Style: American Irish Red Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 4.80%
Serving Type: Brewery Nitro Keg, 16 oz Tumbler Glass
Rating: 3.65


Shillelagh pours smoothly with a slightly below average amount of carbonation action and a cool nitro cascade, producing a three quarters inch tall, creamy foam head with a high density, a good retention, and a white color. This beer is clear with no visible sediment and shines with a deep reddish amber color in medium light. This beer displays full lacing.


This beer's aroma is somewhat bitter with a moderate amount of dull hops and a metallic tinge. This hoppy aspect is augmented with a good amount of sweet malt with a slightly biscuity secondary and a small hint of grain and cereal. The aroma contains no fruity notes, no alcoholic smell, and is fairly dull overall with a medium low strength.


This is a medium bodied brew with a smooth creamy texture, an average weight, and a matching viscosity. This beer has a low amount of dull carbonation, and offers a fair amount of refreshment, but no real crispness. The finish is somewhat dry with an average linger, and contains no alcoholic bite or warming. Overall, this is an easy to drink beer in any quantity.


Overall this is a sweet beer whose primary taste is derived from Watch City's use of deep roasted and medium dark malt which dominate the beginning of the profile. This shifts toward a bitter experience with a good amount of trailing Northwestern like hops and a dry, somewhat lingering aftertaste. This beer's flavor profile contains no alcohol or metallic tinge despite the aroma, and has a slightly earthy undertone.

Our Take

Perhaps the most redeeming quality of this beer was its easy going, smooth, and creamy texture, typical with nitro pressure beer. We happen to think this is the best way to serve up a traditional Irish stout or ale, and it helps bring out a rich, bold malty experience bursting with sweet roasted flavor. This is a well balanced brew with a general sweetness being shifted toward a hoppy, crisp, and citrusy finish, delivering a full spectrum of flavors. Overall, we'd enjoy this beer with a wide array of food (we had it with buffalo wings), and though this is not a warming beer or a particularly light beer, it should go well with most seasonal weather (even now, with the first real storm of the upcoming winter). Those looking for a more bitter amber ale, should at least try this beer, but those who are indeed interested in a great American Irish red will be more than happy with this Waltham, MA brew.