The History of Dwyer’s Ire Irish Red

Every beer brewed at Factotum has a history but not all of them as rich as that of Dwyer’s Ire Irish Red by guest brewer Craig Hewitt.  I’ll let Craig recount the tale of this traditional beer that’s soon to hit our tap lines:

“In celebration of our family’s Irish heritage, we crafted a beer in honor of Patrick Athanasius Dwyer, our great-great grandfather, who was born July 1835 in County Cork, Ireland.  Patrick lived in the small town of Ovens just outside of the city of Cork on the southern coast of Ireland but left his homeland when he was only 17 years old.  At the time, Ireland was in the grips of the Potato Famine, and young Patrick stole potatoes just to keep from starving.  Desperate and left with few options, he, like thousands of Irish immigrants, fled to America hoping to find a new life.

Craig Hewitt mashing in for Dwyer's Ire Irish Red

Craig mashing in for Dwyer’s Ire

Shortly after arriving, Patrick settled in Boston in 1852 where he embraced America as his new home.  Unfortunately, a decade later “the States” were plunged into Civil War and Patrick was called on to defend his new home.  He immediately enlisted in the 9th Massachusetts Infantry of the Union Army, a regiment of predominantly Irish immigrants.  As a member of the 9th Mass, he fought in some of the most famous battles of the American Civil War including Antietam, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and Gettysburg, the historic battle that turned the tide of the war.

At Gettysburg, Patrick’s regiment was separated from the Union troops and advanced to a small wooded hill named Round Top.  There, they held their ground against an onslaught of Confederate skirmishers.  Every time Confederate troops tried to advance on their position, they were driven back.  This effort was later credited with helping to win the battle.  To this day, a monument stands at Gettysburg honoring the men of the 9th Massachusetts for their courage.  It carries the following inscription: “During the Battle of Gettysburg the Ninth Regt. was detached from the 2nd Brigade and it held this position on Round Top.”

Of the 474 men of the 9th Mass that went to battle that day, only 26 died, but throughout the course of the war, 250 men were killed in action and even more were wounded or went MIA.  Patrick was a survivor, a tough, tenacious Irish-American who sacrificed everything for his new homeland and personally witnessed some of the most horrific yet pivotal moments in American history.  A veritable family hero, we honor our ancestor Patrick Anthanius Dwyer with Dwyer’s Ire, a classic Irish-style red ale.

Craig Hewitt dropping hops into Dwyer's Ire Irish Red

Craig dropping some hops into the boil for Dwyer’s Ire

As a fitting tribute, we wanted Dwyer’s Ire to be as authentic as possible, a pint that our great-great grandfather could have enjoyed in his day and age.  In Patrick’s time, his hometown of Cork boasted as many as 15 different breweries but only two have survived to this day: Beamish & Crawford and Murphy’s, two breweries renowned for their stouts.  However, Irish stouts don’t have as long of a history as many beer drinkers think.  In the 1800’s, what we have come to know as stouts were actually porters, essentially an Irish version of the classic London porter.  It wasn’t until the late 19th century when “porter stouts” were introduced that porters and stouts began to evolve into different beers.

When Patrick was only 19 years old, the Murphy family started Lady’s Well Brewery in 1854, named after the Catholic shrine located across the street from the brewery in Cork (it wasn’t until 1983 that the brewery was changed to the Murphy’s namesake).  When they debuted, only three beers were served: an ale, a porter, and a lager.  Their inaugural ale was called Lady’s Well Ale, a recipe that has survived on to this day as Murphy’s Irish Red.

Further inspiration was drawn when our family visited Cork in 2012, 160 years after Patrick left Irish shores.  Two beers, in particular, stood out as family favorites: Smithwick’s Irish Red and Kilkenny’s Irish Cream Ale.  Creators of both beers, Smithwick’s St. Francis Abbey Brewery, is the oldest operating brewery in Ireland, their famous Irish red recipe was originally brewed by Franciscan monks in 1231.  Since the Irish red is one of Ireland’s oldest and most enduring styles of beer, we chose this style to honor our great-great-grandfather.”

Come by the Factotum taproom soon for your taste of this historic beer!