By Chris Maza
In a recent conversation with my favorite local beer supply purveyors at DIY Brewing, one fine gentleman advised me that in preparing my first Irish Red Ale, I would be producing the best beer of the style that I have ever tasted.
It's a style, he said, that for whatever reason few have really been able to nail.
Not to toot my own horn, but he was right.
But for those of you who are unable to sample mine this St. Patrick's Day weekend, there are some solid offerings from some terrific local and regional breweries.
Allow me to introduce you to a few.
Thomas Hooker Irish Red Ale
Made in Bloomfield, Conn., Hooker has a solid line of products and the Irish Red might be one of its best. It has a dark amber, almost brown, color to it and the caramel malts are the highlight but not to the point where the beer is unbearably sweet. A crisp, bitter finish follows the malty tones.
Newport Storm Spring Irish Red Ale
Newport Storm, which comes out of Rhode Island, is a different breed, chock full of sweet bread and smokey notes with coffee and caramel lingering in the background. I'm not sure I would classify it as a spring ale because of its dark and heavy nature, but it definitely fits the bill as an Irish Red.
Quinn's Amber Ale
Lighter than most others in the style, Quinn's, which is named after Peter Quinn, one of the founders of Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster, has a nice caramel profile and a generous amount of hops that provides balance. Simplicity is the name of the game with this one. Nice body, nice taste, nice beer.
Samuel Adams Boston Brick Red
Should you find yourself in South Boston for their St. Patrick's Day parade this year, be sure to find your way to one of the fine establishments that exclusively serve this. It is the very definition of an Irish Red by its looks, pouring a deep ruby color and possessing serious amounts of malty sweetness while remaining well-balanced despite the lack of any obvious hops.
Harpoon Celtic Ale
One of the newer brews in Harpoon's lineup, this was not one of my favorites to start. However, the folks in Boston and Windsor, Vt., appear to have refined this one into a solid option. It features a pleasurable and complex malt profile with the caramel flavors being the most prominent and a certain crispness that makes it a good spring beer.