Mark of Clanconnel Brewery has a very acute sense of Place and Time. His branding is carefully chosen to reflect the real life and history of where he brews. So, on his first outing, there was a tribute to Co. Down's former lifeblood, the linen industry, in the fine blonde ale Weaver's Gold (I've just noticed recently that between Weaver's Gold, Helvick Gold and Ór we are living through the golden [hahaha] age of Irish blonde ales -- long may it continue). The long-awaited second beer is named in honour of Co. Armagh's greatest sporting legend: the Lurgan greyhound Master McGrath (1866-1871). It seems my home county's humans are a little behind the canines when it comes to sporting prowess. That certainly explains my abilities at least...
Anyway, McGrath's Irish Red is the name, and once again we're looking at a half-litre bottle, brewed for sessionability at 4.3% ABV. The colour is a little paler than one would expect for an Irish red: it's more the dark amber of brown English bitter. The flavour is a tick-list of what the style does at its best: heavy toffee in the ascendant with a lighter, sweeter caramel middle, topped by ripe strawberries and fading out with a mild dry roastiness. Ireland's other microbrewed reds twiddle these dials to varying degrees, but this has most of them turned up quite high, especially the fruit elements. And yet it's still very light and sessionable with nothing cloying or difficult about it. A break with tradition and a bit more of a hop profile would have been nice, but otherwise this is a tasty and quite complex quaffer.
You can argue the toss as to whether Ireland really needs another beer in this style. But there's no doubt that McGrath's Red can hold its own against the top flight of O'Hara's Red and Copper Coast.
Thanks for the sample, Mark. When's beer number 3?