Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Conway’s Irish Ale perfect for St. Paddy’s Day

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Seeing as St. Patrick’s Day will be here Monday, March 17, I would like to highlight an Irish Red Ale that is also from Great Lakes Brewery, which I discussed in last week’s article.

Most people think of Guinness when celebrating St. Paddy’s Day … my favorite is an Irish Red. The red ales of Ireland have a smooth maltiness and caramel flavor with earthy and restrained hop character. These are session ales, so alcohol is generally at 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or less. This one is also from Great Lakes Brewery.

Conway’s Irish Ale is Great Lakes’ interpretation of an Irish Ale. This is a malty beer with a toasty flavor and slight fruit and hop accents that add to the overall drinking pleasure. It is available from mid-January through late March.

The namesake is homage to Patrick Conway, grandfather of co-owners Patrick and Daniel, who was a Cleveland policeman who directed traffic near the brewery for nearly 25 years. This beer has won six gold and a silver medal at the World Beer Championships.

Proper serving is in a traditional English pint glass at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This beer pours a brilliant copper reddish color that is crystal clear. A nice high off-white head develops and quickly diminishes, which is true to this style.

The aroma is grainy and earthy, with a slight sweetness from the caramel; the hop nose is minimal, but teases with some fruitiness, maybe orange and plum.

The first taste hits with caramel sweetness and bready/biscuit maltiness. There is very little hop presence, but a slight lemon and orange develops at the finish, with the caramel sweetness asserting itself once again, very clean.

The mouth feel is slightly creamy with medium body and minimal carbonation bite, really refreshing. Lacing is minimal to none.

Overall, this beer is well balanced and crafted and stands on its own without huge flavor influences or alcohol. The 6.5 percent ABV hides in the background, so this does not really fall under the session ale category like its Irish ancestors, but well worth a couple at a sitting. I really enjoy beer like this that’s done right.

I have only seen this in the area in bottles, but would love to try it on tap, or even better, cask conditioned! If you don’t get a chance to try Conway’s Irish Ale, make sure you put on the green and stop in at Carlyle’s or Pig Minds (preferably on St. Paddy’s Day), as they both have very nice Irish Ales on tap. Remember, everybody is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!


Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at

From the March 12-18, 2014 print edition

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