Irish Red Challenge: The champion still reigns

Posted: March 18, 2014 by cjax33 in Beer Battle
Tags: , , , ,

The Crew, well half of us, gathered last year a week after St. Patrick’s Day to select the best Irish Red Ale that was being poured in the ABQ metro area. There were three of us choosing among just four reds, so it worked as basically a scaled-down version of our annual Super Bowl Stout Challenge. This year, since a certain someone was not in Arizona to cover spring training, we held our second Irish Red Challenge on St. Patrick’s Day itself.

Our big and small growlers were filled up and ready to go for the Irish Red Challenge. And no, the brewery labels on the outside did not correspond to the beers within.

Our big and small growlers were filled up and ready to go for the Irish Red Challenge. And no, the brewery labels on the outside did not correspond to the beers within.

Sadly, the great holiday fell on a Monday this year, so even though the Crew is now seven members strong, there again was just three of us, with Mrs. Solo taking the place of E-Rock, who was unavailable this year. Meanwhile, Porter Pounder, Brandon, and Shilling were all working, which is good, because now they can buy more beer. It was thus up to myself and the Solos to choose among five Irish reds this year. Both La Cumbre, last year’s runner-up, and Marble were not present this year. The breweries elected to make Irish-style dry stouts instead for the holiday. Only defending champion Il Vicino and Chama River returned, while new to the competition were Nexus, Turtle Mountain, and Kaktus (which did not even exist as a brewery when the last challenge was held). Other breweries may have red ales, but those tend to be year-round offerings and not in the Irish style, so they were left out. We did try to bring Sandia Chile Grill into this year’s challenge, but they were mysteriously closed on Monday when I stopped by.

Because there were just three of us choosing from five beers, and our Stout Challenge beer maiden Lora was not around to help out, we did not do this year as a blind taste test (same with last year). I do not believe that we let any biases creep in to our selections, but that can be for others to debate. Without further adieu, our final rankings from numbers five to one. A first-place vote was worth five points, second-place worth four, and so on.

5. Turtle Mountain: There was something off about this red. Franz felt it came from burnt malts that occupy the entire middle segment of the flavor as it hits your palate. It certainly lacked any of the sweetness one would expect from a malty red. Total points: 3.

4. Chama River: The aroma was a little more pungent than we expected. That said, the flavor was fine, if a little light. The bite from the hops was very slight. Overall it was dry, maybe drier than we expected. Last year’s batch was more flavorful. Total points: 7.

3. Nexus: The aroma was wonderful, like a bouquet of roses. The beer we tasted afterward did not quite match the aroma. It was also quite dry, with minimal bite. The hops instead popped up on the back end, which made for a strange finish. Total points: 8.

2. Kaktus: The new guys did quite good. Mrs. Solo, in fact, said this was her favorite. Much like Nexus, it strikes you right away with its floral aroma. The flavor, though, is just like the aroma. It is a sweet taste of flowery goodness throughout. The only minor knock Franz Solo and I found was a lack of body, a bit of a thin mouthfeel. That’s all that kept it from dethroning our back-to-back champion. Total points: 13.

1. Il Vicino: Unlike the Stout Challenge, where a different brewery has won every year, Il Vicino’s popular Irish Red still reigns supreme. Compared to the rest, this is a big, flavorful beer. It has malty sweetness throughout, from start to finish. It is the only beer that maintains that consistency. The mouthfeel is thicker and more vibrant than Kaktus. Total points: 14.

As always, thanks to the breweries for still making this underrated beer style. We would still recommend to everyone out there to try all five of these beers and do your own ranking (though please, do not do so in one day while driving; they may not be high ABV beers, but they will catch up to you if you’re not doing small samples or doing the smart thing and taking them home in growlers).

Until our next beer challenge (we’re thinking pilsners when enough are available), the Crew will be getting back to tracking down the beer business news that is popping up every day.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Comments
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