|Garrett McAleese & Dave Fleming in the brewery|
It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that case Smithwick's and Harp should be flattered while craft beer fans who can appreciate well made, local versions of the two should pay a visit to Kells Brew Pub. There head brewer Dave Fleming is working with lead brewer/pub manager Garrett McAleese on their staple three-beer line up. The lightest of the trio, Kells Irish Lager, was created to replace Harp. I'm not a fan of Harp and consider myself lager-averse yet I found it to be very drinkable and a good compliment to the Nicoise salad it was served with during a recent event.
The second "imitation" is Kells Irish Red, created to be similar to Smithwick's but livelier. I found it to be similar to the lager in that it was very drinkable and not overly malty as some reds can be. The Northwest hops are present but appropriate for the style. Paired with their wonderful Ballycastle sausage roll, "seasoned sausage baked in puff pastry with demi glace," the beer cut through the heaviness of the food, making each bite after sip a fresh taste of meaty heaven.
The third beer in their lineup is an IPA, but an Irish Pale Ale, instead of the standard India Pale Ale. While the beer has the most prominent hop profile of the three it drinks just as Dave described it, "an Imperial ISA" with plenty of aromatics and flavor while lacking bitterness. Fish and chips fans will find this beer to be a sessionable, clean-drinker that works well to offset the "friedness" of the food.
With the recent addition of two 20-bbl fermenters to their 10-barrel system Kells is looking forward to having the space that will allow them to add seasonal beers. Their first will be an Imperial Brown Ale which will be featured at the Holiday Ale Festival in December. The goal is to produce a "fruitcake brown" with an ABV in the range of 6.4%, a nice change to the many high ABV beers the Holiday Ale Festival generally pours.
If you haven't been to Kells or haven't been in a while, stop in for some bites and beers. Hearty food and clean, easy drinking beers are awaiting you.