Ah, the spring beer; where the bock, dry stout, fruit-based Wheat beers and Irish Reds all attempt to reign my least favorite season. Why has spring become so glamorized into crocuses emerging from freshly-thawed soil, birds chirping, and dewy-eyed hibernators emerging to forage for asparagus and fiddleheads? Spring is the pits. Spring is muddy shoes and never knowing what type of weather to dress for. It’s rainy and dismal and causes my cat to make these weird clicking noises when she sees birds outside, and I think I’m starting to see the stirrings of an Escape From Alcatraz-type of elaborate getaway by the way she’s pacing by the slider door.
Anyways, Irish Reds have gotten themselves a pretty bad rap. They don’t have a lot of historical basis as an actual style, and it seems like some breweries see the Irish red as a way to put out a beer, unique because of its bold color, but usually pretty bland. They’ll spout phrases like “This is a balanced, malt-forward amber ale”, and you get a beer with low hops, low malts, but hey, that makes it balanced, right?
What Newport Storm has done with the Irish Red Ale, their latest spring seasonal, is twist the style a bit to help showcase its best components. It pours a deep amber; like something you’d see a dinosaur fossil embedded in. A moderate and toasty malt aroma lets you know you’re in for a bit of roast.
A slightly sweet caramel malt flavor with hints of toffee and toasted grains complement the finish nicely. The roasted grains do more than give its red appearance, but also add a pleasant roasted hazelnut flavor that you don’t see in a ton of Irish reds. What’s also unique about this beer is the dry-hopping process using English hops. The malts still shine, but add a light bitterness that doesn’t overpower the hops and actually works pretty well with the roast. Lots of American-brewed versions of this beer tend to use its malty base as a platform to go Berzerker with histrionic hoppage. But here, the malts and hops are showcased separately in their own way, and yes, balanced.
It is medium-bodied, smooth and well-carbonated, and at 5%, makes for a pretty sessionable ale.