MOVIES & BOOZE: Craft beer on the menu

Beer messiah, Dean McGuinness reviews craft beer with Sean on today's show


The two beers that we are tasting today are the soon-to-be-launched Foxes Rock IPA from Alltech’s Station Works Brewery in Newry, Northern Ireland, and Kentucky Ale from Alltech’s Brewery in Kentucky.

Foxes Rock IPA

Beer Style - American IPA
Alcohol by Volume - 5.2% a.b.v.
Brewed By - Alltech’s Station Works Brewery
Brewed In - Newry, Northern Ireland

There can be some confusion about the term IPA in relation to beers that are brewed in Ireland. The term ‘IPA’ originally referred to India Pale Ale. Because there have been so many variants of IPA (including Black India Pale Ale, where ‘Black’ and ‘Pale’ are oxymoronic contradictions) the latest opinion is that ‘IPA is the term that should be used for beers that were previously called India Pale Ales, but were not ‘pure’ Indian Pale Ales in the traditional sense of the word.

To add further confusion to the situation, a number of Irish brewers took to calling their Pale Ales ‘Irish Pale Ales’ (or ‘IPA’ for short). Many of these beers were not IPA’s or India Pale Ales in the sense of the style – they were really simply ‘pale ales’. So we have India Pale Ales that are traditional India Pale Ales, IPA’s that used to be India Pale Ales, but are now modern interpretations of the IPA and IPA’s that are Irish Pale Ales and are really not IPA’s or India Pale Ales at all, but Pale Ales. It all makes sense when you think about it.

Our first beer that we are tasting is an American IPA from Ireland, and it is an IPA in the the ‘what used to be ‘India Pale Ale’ sense of the word. While it is described as an American Pale Ale in style, it is brewed in Ireland, but it wouldn’t be an Irish Pale Ale (or what is sometimes confusingly called IPA) – if you are looking for an Irish Pale Ale from Alltech’s Station Works brewery, you need to taste the original beer that is on the market – their Irish Pale Ale.

The Station Works Brewery was set up a number of years ago, with high profile Irish entrepreneur Edward Haughey being a key driving force behind its establishment. Unfortunately, Edward Haughey died in a tragic helicopter accident over a year ago, leaving the brewery without its founder. Alltech purchased the brewery, and now is working to continue what Edward Haughey started.

The first beer that they launched at Station Works was an Irish Pale Ale under the ‘Foxes Rock’ brand. Work has been underway to add to this range, and the beer that we are tasting to-day is a soon-to-be-launched Foxes Rock IPA, which is part of the planned range of brand extensions which will also include Foxes Rock Red Ale and Foxes Rock stout.

Foxes Rock IPA is brewed with Pale Ale and Crystal Malt, hopped with American hop varieties for late hopping and dry hopping (Chinook and Cascade), moderately bittered for an IPA (35-40 IBU’s, where 40 is the normal ‘starting point’ for an IPA), and at the lower end of the ‘classic’ IPA a.b.v. scale, or the upper end of the Session IPA scale at 5.2%. Fermentation fruit character (stone fruit and nectarine) combines with classic American citrus and pine, combined with some spice hop character on a base of mildly sweet malt.

Kentucky Ale

Beer Style - Pale Ale (Pale Ale / Irish Red Ale Hybrid)
Alcohol by Volume - 5.0% a.b.v.
Brewed By - Alltech’s Lexington Brewery
Brewed In - Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A.

Kentucky Ale is one of Alltech’s brand extensions to the range of beers with Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Aged Ale at its helm. A pale ale, this beer is described as a ‘Pale Ale – Irish Red Ale’ hybrid. So what does this mean in style terms?

Historically, ‘pale ale’ regularly referred to any beer that wasn’t on the Brown-Black end of the spectrum. This would include golden beers, but also amber beers, and even beers that were distinctly heading towards red in colour. A couple of hundred years ago, the technology in malting meant that some colour pick-up in malt was not unusual. With the massive growth of bland American golden lagers in America, ‘pale’ became more closely associated with ‘golden’. When the American craft beer movement started, craft brewers used the more traditional interpretation of pale to include beers that were more amber in colour.

American brewers have a propensity to use hops – hops were seen as a way to differentiate flavourful craft beers from the bland mainstream propositions from the big brewers. As a result, the signature for a classic American Pale Ale would normally be its hop character. Irish Red Ale, on the other hand, started out as being a classically malty beer. Irish brewers again added a bit of confusion to the pot by choosing to hop their Irish Red Ales in the style of the American Pale Ale style, so now Irish Red Ale can include traditional malty Irish Red Ales, and more the more modern interpretation of a hoppy Irish Red Ale.

So coming back to understanding what a ‘Pale Ale – Irish Red Ale hybrid’ means – Kentucky have taken the modern interpretation of ‘Pale’ as being golden, and highlighted that this beer is more amber in colour. Likewise, they have taken the more traditional interpretation of ‘irish Red Ale’ as being malty, and highlighted that their Kentucky Ale is on the more malty side of the hop-malt balance. In short, Kentucky Ale is a Malty Pale Ale that would easily qualify as just a ‘traditional Irish Red Ale’ on colour and flavour, but would be distinct from what is now understood with the ‘American Pale Ale’ style.

Kentucky Ale has flavours of biscuit malt with restrained hop character coming from English hops – East Kent Goldings and Fuggles give flavours of mint, grass and a slightly floral character