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!

Meanwhile, the May meeting of the Maine Beer Writers’ Guild will be hosted and sponsored by The Shipyard Brewing Company at the Inn on Peaks Island (check out the MBWG website for more).


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