Wexford Irish Cream Ale: tastes like home
Before I begin here, perhaps a disclaimer is in order. For various reasons, some good some not, I love Greene King beers. All of them. Some of the reasons are purely sentimental, but the bottom line is all of them are pretty good. A number of years ago I found myself in Ipswich, England and somehow fell in love with the place. Everything about it. The football team. Several inhabitants. The beer.
The team has fallen on hard times, a couple of people have moved or passed on, but that beer is still there -- and increasingly here. Greene King brewery is in Bury St. Edmunds which is just a bit down the road from Ipswich. It’s Constable country. A combination of farmland, rolling countryside, and the North Sea.
Wexford Irish Cream Ale is not your typical English ale; the Irish bit in the name probably gives that away. It’s not really Irish either, though. It leans more towards a good American cream ale -- at least, if there were any, this is what one would presumably taste like. Rich and smooth. It’s acceptable to serve this beer a little colder if you must.
That American tilt was what first kept me coming back to this beer. It was just familiar enough to comfortably remind me of home, but started me on the road to thinking about what I was drinking, and why.
In the States, you’re only likely to find it in the pint can with the widget. I’ve always wanted to dislike those widgets, but they do the trick. It’ll pour a clear, reddish amber with a thick, creamy head into a pint glass, just like a pub pull. Not much carbonation. The aroma is only slight and mostly malt. With a name like that, it better taste creamy, and it does. Some caramel stands out, but the hops give it a little nip. There’s some zing to it that tries to balance the creaminess, never quite matching it, but ends up complementing it nicely. Wexford would be considered a little thin for an ale, only medium bodied at best, but that creaminess gives it the nice feel.
The inevitable comparison is to Boddington’s. Wexford is a little sweeter than that, but the creamy smoothness is similar. I would tend to have this with blander fare due to the sweetness -- potatoes, chicken, that sort of thing. Most people would also consider this an ideal beer to session. That smoothness again, and just 5% alcohol would be their reasons. But, for me, that sweetness means I’d probably go for something else if I wanted more than a couple.
When I was first in England, Wexford Cream Ale took me back home. Now, when I have it in America, it reminds me of Blighty. So, it is a sentimental favorite for me wherever I am, but it has more going for it than that. It has a little more flavor than American-style ales, and if you like creamy beers that are a little on the sweet side, here’s a good one. If forced to admit it, I’d still opt for a Boddy, though. All Greene King beers are tougher to find here, and are a bit pricey. If I can find Greene King, which you can now in the better shops, and am paying upwards of $2 a pint, I’ll get the IPA or Abbot most every time. But, Wexford is one of the beers that started my appreciation for the more flavorful styles. It’s a good cross-over beer for American taste buds, but it’s still worth drinking if yours have already crossed. Hoist one and say a little prayer for Ipswich Town Football Club -- they can use any help they can get.