Saturday, March 15, 2014

Conway's Irish Ale

According to the Oxford Companion of Beer, it was first called "Enniscorthy Ruby Ale."  The "ruby ale" was brewed by the Lett's Brewery in County Wexford, Ireland.  Owned by the Killian family, Lett's Brewery produced the ruby ale until the 1950s, when the brewery closed and they sold the rights to market the beer under the George Killian brand.  Those rights ultimately were purchased by Coors, who produced the Killian's Irish Red Ale.  (The Killian's Irish Red Ale also happens to be the first beer that I ever drank.)  That gave rise to the name "Irish Red Ale," as well as the beer named after George Killian, which became one of the most popular beers since Coors began brewing it in 1981.

Fortunately, for craft beer lovers, there is another Irish Red Ale named after someone.  This particular beer is named after Patrick Conway.  "Pa Conway" was the grandfather of Pat and Dan Conway, who are the co-owners of Great Lakes Brewing Company.  Patrick Conway was a Cleveland who directed traffic for 25 years near the brewery and who is described as a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, which seems like a good inspiration for an Irish Red Ale.

Brewed with Harrington 2 Row Base Malt and Crystal 77 malts, along with Northern Brewer, Mt. Hood and Willamette hops, the Conway Irish Ale is an excellent representation of the Irish Red Ale style.  Returning to the Oxford Companion of Beer, the style is characterized by its color and malt profile, which typically includes caramel and/or toffee like sweetness.  The roasted malts provide a dry finish with a slight hint of bitterness.  Pours reddish orange in color.  biscuit, toast, bready aromas.  Caramel in taste.  Hint of hops in the background.

The Conway's Irish Ale pours a reddish-orange color, with a foam that quickly recedes to the edges of the beer.  The aromas are a little bready or biscuity, provided by the malts with little to no hop elements.  As for the taste, those bread-like and biscuit-like characteristics carry through and are at the forefront.  Some sweetness, like a caramel or molasses, is also present, but it gives way to the dryness that one expects in the finish of an Irish Red Ale.

As one would expect, the brewers at Great Lakes suggest that the Conway's Irish Ale pairs well with corned beef, shepherd's pie, and any meat or vegetable stews.  This beer would pair well with a lot of other dishes, including grilled or braised meats and vegetables, as well as other earthy or hearty dishes.  Bottom line, when it comes to pairing, think Pa Conway and his "meat and potatoes." 

Great Lakes Brewery released the beer earlier this year and it can be found for about $9.99 a six pack at any store that sells Great Lakes beer. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day and ...


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