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Friday, March 15, 2013

Great Lakes Brewing's Conway's Irish Ale

  • Style: Irish Red Ale
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Season: Winter (late winter specificly)
  • Ease to locate: Widely available in the Midwest, NY, NJ, VA, WV, KY,  & Washington DC
  • Color: Golden amber 
  • Head: 1 & 1/2 fingers with nice lacing
  • Aroma: Toasted malts, sweet caramel, a bit of tea and a hint of citrus
  • Mouthfeel: Light, but crisp and dry.  A good amount of carbonation
  • Finish: Medium with mild hops on the tail
  •  Food friendly: Yes.  Because it's dry, it'll go with a variety of foods.  Personally, I'm serving it with corned beef.             


They say on St. Patrick's Day that everyone is Irish.  Well, 365 days a year I'm always Irish.  My maternal grandmother, who was also named Marie (which I'm sure is just a coincidence), came over from County Mayo when she was just 16 years old.   She left her family's small farm in the West of Ireland and sailed across the sea to a new country to join her older sisters in the quest for a better life. When I was 16, my greatest achievement was when Marvel Comics published a letter that I wrote in one of their publications (don't mock.  I was really excited.)  My grandmother was an extraordinary woman.  Actually, I come form a long line of extraordinary women on both sides of my family tree.  Talk about pressure to not suck.  My grandmother worked as a cook, a ladies maid and at one point, as the caretaker of a linen closet for a rather wealthy Chicago heiress (today we might have referred to her as a "Linen Special Needs Assistant")  When my grandfather passed away, my mom and her sister were just teenagers.  My grandmother became the sole breadwinner for her family.   She was a single mom way before it became a Rom Com cliche staple. One of the legacies she passed on to me was her pride in doing a job well done. Half-assing something was definitely not in her wheelhouse.  

                                        The elder Marie may never have recognized The Pogues as Irish music, but as we've already established, this Marie has her own way of doing things

Pat and Dan Conway, the owners of  Great Lakes Brewing, must have had a similar upbringing.  They named their Irish ale after their paternal grandfather, Patrick (again, I'm sure just a coincidence.)  Patrick Conway the elder was a Cleveland traffic cop for over twenty five years, often directing traffic on a corner where his grandsons' brewery now sits.   I believe that these brewers were raised with the same determination and drive that only an Irish grandparent can provide.  Irish grandparents also tend to give you a love of all things shamrock, a high tolerance for guilt complexes and the ability to slap on a friendly grin all the while you are plotting a rival's take down, but I digress.

I had to take these photos on my IPhone.  I'd prefer if you consider the lighting here as "artistic" and not "crappy"
 My Great Lakes Brewing's Conway's Irish Ale poured a slightly hazy, golden amber color.  A 1 & 1/2 finger off white head formed in the pint glass.  Although you can't tell from photos that I took, a lovely bit of lacing reached high up the sides of the glass.  I could smell a bit of sweet caramel and toasted malts right away.  As it warmed, the aroma of weak tea and a hint of citrus emerged.  The aroma of the beer wasn't strong, but I think that this style benefits from a lighter scent profile.  I could taste the toasted malts right away.  There was a bit of nuttiness on the grain and a well balanced, mild hoppiness just under the malt.  The mild tea flavor helped to balance out the sweetness with a bit of herbal fruitiness.  There was a smidge of the citrus, but just enough to give the drink a bit of brightness.  I think the last two flavors are thanks to the presence of Willimette hops, which are the US version of Fuggle hops.  They have a similar flavor prifile and is listed on Great Lake's website as one of the hop varieties used in this beer.  The mouth feel was light to medium with a nice amount of effervescence.  The carbonation helped to make this an easy to drink pleaser (while not technically a "session" ale because of a 6.5% ABV, it's certainly a sessionable sort of beer.) The finish was meduim with a very mild and tasty hop presence on the end.   

This gives you a good idea of the beer's color.  It gives you an awful idea of the lacing


Sort of like the fog settling softly over Galway Bay.  OK, not really, but it certainly tastes better

 I would pair Conway's Irish Ale with a variety of food Of course you can go with traditional corned beef sandwiches, but we're Irish Americans, damn it!  Embrace your Yankee boldness and try something less traditional.  Serve it with meatless shephard pie with horseraddish cheddar potatoes    (yes, it's a Rachael Ray recipe.  Don't judge me.  It said CHEDDAR POTATOES, people!)  I think it could equally go with with an easy  braised chicken thighs dish (and yes, this one is Emeril.  Apparently I'm on a Food Network roll.  Sometimes you just have to ride the wave.)  No matter what you pair it with,  try to serve it with a huge helping of family.  Yes, they sometimes drive us to the brink of insanity, some times to the precipice of financial ruin and sometimes we want to just change our names to Consuela and set up a surf shop in a small Mexican costal town (unless your name is already Consuela, then feel free to change it to Marie and move to Chicago instead.)  But family is also the reason that we who we are today.  And on most days, that's not that bad.