Brew review of the Merlot of beers: Murphy’s Irish Red Ale

murphy's irish red aleBrew Review: Murphy’s Irish Red Ale
Brewery: Murphy’s Brewery (Cork, Ireland)
ABV: 5.0

Irish Red Ales always remind me of Merlots, if the film “Sideways” had been about beer and not wine, Paul Giamatti would be snobbishly declaring “I am not drinking any Irish Red Ale” while Thomas Haden Church would be blissfully belching, “Tastes good to me“. The beer snobs may turn their nose up at this style, but the masses enjoy it. And rightfully so.
As a style, Irish Red Ales are a session beer- refreshing, drinkable, balanced, and friendly. They’re malt-forward, smooth, balanced, and drinkable. They are also a good introductory beer for novice beer enthusiasts. Not surprisingly, people often confuse the Irish Red Ale with the American Red/Amber Ale. They are similar in many degrees, basically the color and being mainly about the malt, but are different styles nonetheless. The Irish Red Ale is a distinctive style — brewed since the early 1700’s — while the American Red/Amber Ale is much broader, referring to basically any amber- or red-colored, malty ale brewed in the U.S.

If the Irish Red Ale is the “Merlot” of beers, then the American Amber/Red Ale is the “Red Blend”. At least neither are the “White Zin”, that honor goes to the lackluster American Lager Category- Bud, Coors, Miller and the ilk.

Today’s contestant is Murphy’s Irish Red Beer. This medium-bodied 5% ABV Irish Red Ale pours a very clear amber-reddish color with a substantial white frothy head, tastes very carbonated and looks great in the glass. Its aroma is subtle and smells of fresh bread and sweet malt — very nice actually. Malty sweetness and caramel notes, along with a slight and pleasant graininess meet the tongue upon first sip, followed by more caramel malt mid taste with a hint of vanilla. The body is velvety smooth. The beer finishes nicely and surprisingly complex with a subtle sweet candy-like flavor, along with a hint of roasted malt and a slight bitterness. The malt dominates throughout, although the hops are detectable, particularly at the finish.

Murphy’s Irish Red Beer most likely isn’t going to win many (or any) beer awards, but it does have its place. It’s smooth, versatile, and easy to enjoy by the pint or the 6-pack. It’s also very versatile with food and will pair wonderfully with barbecue, Italian, Mexican, and most anything really. This style is gaining in popularity — some other well-known and very good examples of this style are Smithwick’s and Sam Adam’s Irish Red. Surprisingly the Michelob Irish Red is also done pretty well. Guess they have to let their brew masters have a little fun once in a while.

Who’ll Like This Beer: Fans of easy to drink, malty beers should try this one. This is a great introductory microbrew for the Bud crowd.

Little Known Fact: Murphy’s Brewery out of Cork Ireland has been brewing beer since 1856; they’re most noted for their Stouts. Murphy’s was purchased by Heineken in 1983. Murphy’s Irish Red Beer is brewed in the Netherlands “Under supervision of Murphy’s Brewery” and has been around since 1995.

The Verdict: This is an easy beer to like and a tough beer to love. It’s a good example of the style, affordable, and very drinkable.
Rating: 7/10 Mugs

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