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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Irish Beers

Okay, back to beer. It's been a while since our last Beer Club meeting. It's often difficult to find a date when everyone is free. But this time we were able to get the whole crew together: Dan, Gerry, Hal, Herb, Mike, Ron and yours truly. Anyhow, this one was a little different. We decided to compare beers that have the name "Irish" in them - other than Guinness. It becomes a bit of a challenge because in essence we are comparing different styles of beer: ales, red ales, stouts and black lagers.It's the old "apples and oranges" deal. But what the hell, it's not like the beer police are going to arrest us for it. Hopefully.

We ended up with seven different beers all with claims of Irish heritage. The challengers were:
1. Beamish Draught Style Stout
2. McSorley's Irish Black Lager
3. McSorley's Irish Pale Ale
4. O'Hara's Irish Red
5. Paper City's Ireland Parish Brand
6. Samuel Adams Irish Red
7. Smithwick's Irish Ale

I know Smithwicks is made by Guinness, but it's not GUINNESS, you know?

The results were rather surprising. Again the tasting was blind with each beer identified only by a colored dot which later revealed the corresponding beer. We ranked them 1-7 (except for Herb, a kindly soul, who could not find it in his heart to rate anything under a three - so he gave a one and a two and then five threes. And that's okay, because you never know when you might be in a pub and the only drinkable beer is the one you ranked seventh. It could be awkward.) Below is how each beer finished (low score = best a la golf), its point total and some comments by various members.

#1. Paper City's Ireland Parish Brand - 20 quality points. Comments: "Nice hop, smooth," "Hoppy," "Yellow-dark color, nice frothy head," "Okay," "Best."

#2. Samuel Adams Irish Red - 23 quality points. Comments: "Malty...low taste," Good. Could drink this with NO problem," "Red to brown shading, almost fruity aftertaste," "Nice hops presence," "Well balanced," "Better."

#3. McSorley's Irish Black Lager - 25 quality points. Comments: "Strong malt," "A good breakfast juice," "Deep, rich color - bitter enjoyable taste," "More carbonated, well-balanced," "Artificial taste."

4. Beamish Draught Style Stout - 27 quality points. Comments: "Sweet. Stout-like, malty," "Very smooth, 'stouty,'" "Frothy creamy head - smoky taste," Smooth, creamy, nice head (can't go bad there), not real strong opening - does finish with a bit of a bitter bite." " A little chocolaty, creamy. Stout?"

#5. McSorley's Irish Pale Ale - 28 quality points. Comments:"Light, low flavor," "Cool, smooth, goes down easy. Brilliant!" "Pleasant reddish color; smooth taste," "Good balance," "Off taste, bitter - but not hoppy, maybe spicy."

#6. O'Hara's Irish Red - 29 quality points. Comments: "Malty - not hoppy, molasses," "A true kindred spirit Irish beer!" "Brown tone, dark color, brash taste," "Opens with a maltiness - then finishes with a nice bitterness," "Chocolate and spice," "Good."

#7. Smithwick's Irish Ale - 32 quality points. Comments: "Light - malt," "Blah. Not very impressive," "Amber-to-red color, light, cheerful," Lighter," "Neutral."

Biggest surprise for me was that Smithwicks landed at the bottom of the group. I would have expected it to have scored much better. Smithwicks is one of those beers that I always look at as a good fall-back beer, like Sam Adams lager, if a bar has no true craft beers on tap. I've found it a pleasant, drinkable beer. Sort of inoffensive and light-years better than the ubiquitous Bud Light etc. that can be found in pretty much every bar in the world.

On the other hand, Paper City's Ireland Parish Brand was a great find. This is honestly a beer I was totally unfamiliar with and found it really terrific. It probably had the strongest hop presence of all the beers, which would automatically skew it in a positive direction for most of us since we tend to be hopeless hop-heads.

Again, there wasn't a bad beer in the bunch, but I will certainly look for Paper City. Sam Adams was a perfect fit for this style as they tend to lean toward the Irish style beer anyway. And their Irish Red was very good.

Next up: Holiday Brews

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