Like spring itself, spring beers don’t really exist in Maine. In order to have any impact, they would need to be on the shelf by mid-February — when it’s still very much the heart of winter — or stay on the shelf well into April or May, and by that time – if your summer ale isn’t out already, you’ll never recover.
So, instead of a “spring” ale, many Maine breweries will release special short-season experimental brews. Like Shipyard’s Brewer’s Choice (a Royal IPA this year) or Gritty’s Irish Red Ale. It was the latter that I was privileged enough to try on draft at the Portland Gritty McDuff’s last night.
During the first official meeting of the Maine Beer Writers’ Guild — which was very graciously sponsored by Gritty’s — I enjoyed a few pints of the Gritty’s IRA: a traditional Irish Red, with a twist; served on tap with a nitrogen infusion. Brewed especially for the St. Patrick’s Day season – in addition to the caramel flavors you’d expect from an Irish Red, the Gritty’s IRA was brewed with CaraAroma and roasted barley malts, giving it a very smoky character.
It was a very smooth (thanks to the nitrogen, which is much more common in stouts), easy-drinking beer which was a great addition to the hours of beer-related conversation. If you find yourself in Portland before the Vacationland appears on draft (when that happens, the IRA will be gone) hurry and grab yourself a pint – you’ll be glad you did!