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Rare ale on tap only in Ireland, Buffalo, wins international award

A new red ale available only in Dublin and Kilkenny, Ireland – and the Buffalo area – was awarded a gold medal at the 2017 International Brewing and Cider Awards.

A panel of judges bestowed Sullivan's Irish Maltings Red Ale with the gold in the Champion Keg Ale category April 26 in a ceremony at Guildhall in London.

Nine breweries and one cidery – hailing from three continents – received top awards, all but one for the first time in the prestigious competition established in 1886.

Other winners included Encore from the Lacons Brewery, Great Yarmouth, Great Britain, in the cask ale category; Rurik Russian Imperial Stout, from The Galbraith Brewing Co., Auckland, New Zealand, in the strong beer category; and Easy Jack, from Firestone Walker Brewing Co., of Paso Robles, Calif., in the smallpack ale category.

[RELATED STORY: Buffalo native's gift to the region: a rare red ale from Ireland]

"To have our Sullivan’s Maltings Irish Ale awarded a gold medal in its class at these awards means a lot to me," winning brewer Ian Hamilton said. "Our Maltings ales, and other brews we are working on, will always be brewed with deep respect for classic ale brewing principles.”

Hamilton, a former Guinness beermaker with more than three decades of brewing experience, and other brewery staff helped launch the beer in the U.S. late last year, when their introduced Irish Maltings Ale in Buffalo. The beer features rich biscuit and subtle caramel notes.

Buffalo native Michael Meade, left, director of North American distribution for Sullivan's Brewing, and Brew Master Ian Hamilton have combined to bring Sullivan's to Western New York.

They came at the invitation of Michael Meade, managing director at Citi Bank in New York City and a 1987 Canisius High School graduate, who has become the director of North American distributing for the Sullivan's brand. The brand is owned by the Smithwick family, whose ancestors opened the Smithwick's Brewery in Kilkenny in 1710. What's happened since is a tale that could come right out of an Irish novel.

In 1965, the Smithwick family sold its company – including its name and trademark – to Guinness, which kept open the Kilkenny brewery until 2014, when it consolidated its Irish operations to Dublin. The Smithwick family, however, still held the rights to another former brewery in County Kilkenny: Sullivan’s.

"This competition only happens every two years, and the last winner for Ale was Sierra Nevada," Meade wrote in an email after the honor was bestowed. "What we are also so proud of is that beers were entered from over 50 countries. Further, the panel is made up of 40-50 global master brewers, and they focus heavily on tasting the beers in light of brewing integrity and process, but they also judge with a 30% input as to the brew's commercial potential and viability."

While the family continues its plans to return brewing to its native city, Hamilton has brewed Maltings Irish Ale outside Dublin. It's available on tap at Blackthorn Restaurant and Pub, Conlon’s Bar & Grill, and Doc Sullivan’s in South Buffalo; Coles, Colter Bay, Fat Bob's, Gabriel’s Gate, the Lenox Grill and The Place near or along Delaware or Elmwood avenues in the city; Del's on Hertel; Brennan’s Bowery Bar & Restaurant in Clarence; and Danny Sheehan's Steakhouse in Lockport. It runs $5 to $7.50 per pour.


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