A new enterprise has set up shop in East Bloomfield, Ontario County, its looming “Irish Mafia” signage casting shadows over Wahlen Road off County Road 20.
For residents of the sleepy town, rest easy: The likes of Whitey Bulger and his ilk are not taking over the Finger Lakes. Irish Mafia Brewing Co. is the newest addition to the ever-expanding beer trail in and around Canandaigua. In the mind of Mark Mansfield, brother of Three Brothers Winery/War Horse Brewing partner Dave Mansfield, Irish Mafia suggests timeless American interpretations of classic English and Irish styles, as well as Irish interpretations of American bar fare.
The brewery was born when Mansfield grew tired of his 28-year career at Corsair Display Systems LLC, a company that produces kiosks, portable carts and modular buildings.
“I’d been at my last job for 28 years,” Mansfield said. “About three years ago, it just became no fun to work anymore. It was weird — one day I was coming back from Wisconsin, where our corporate headquarters are, and I’m talking to my brother on the phone and I was just like ‘Geez, I got to do something, I have to plan something.'”
That revelation came at the same time War Horse was pulling away from contract brewing with Honeoye Falls’ Custom Brewcrafters (CB) and establishing a brewhouse of its own. While putting out its own line of beers, CB brews for many local pubs and small breweries, including Twisted Rail, Lock 32, Rogers and, prior to the new facility’s opening in 2016, Three Heads.
Now independent, War Horse has offered the same business model to Irish Mafia, brewing all of their beers for them from their recipes — at least, for now.
“I have a pilot system up there (at War Horse), and I’m going to bring it here,” Mansfield said. “So as soon as my stout is done, which should be Tuesday, I’ll be bringing it back. The great thing about brewing there is that it’s like the Taj Mahal of brewing; it’s got floor drains, great open spaces and all the ingredients you need. Mine’s going to be a dungeon.”
Over the next three years, Mansfield plans to establish his own full brewhouse on-site, right down the street from now-defunct Nedloh Brewing, which closed its doors last month.
In this quiet country town where Mansfield grew up, the name Irish Mafia embossed on a grain silo out front stands out like a sore thumb. While the brewery of course has no connection to the crime syndicate, it certainly was inspired by it.
“One weekend I decided to binge-watch all Irish movies, any Irish movie I could find, because I wanted to have the Irish heritage, that I wanted to make a statement … I wanted to find something that could represent that,” Mansfield said. “And then Monday I had to take a flight and I was reading “Black Mass” about Whitey Bulger, and about halfway through the flight I said, ‘Irish Mafia, that’s the name.'”
The branding may be bold, but how’s the beer? Right now, Irish Mafia puts out three styles, with a new stout on the way next week: a single IPA dubbed “Mighty Ego,” double IPA “Devoted” and a red ale called “Impetuous.” Out of that humble pilot batch, Irish Mafia shows real promise.
Impetuous pours the color of light rust with good clarity and a half finger white head, which lingers for a moment before inevitably fizzling away. The scent comes off with notes of caramel, spicy hops and just a hint of roastiness on the tail end. The taste is a perfect match to the nose; an easy-drinking brew with just a bit of bite to counterbalance a rigid malty backbone. Notes of caramel and toffee are perfectly balanced against faint bits of coffee.
An imperial style from a new brewery should always draw skepticism; there’s often very little leeway between brewing a rich, decadent beer or an astringent, overtly boozy mess. Irish Mafia hit the nail on the head with Devoted. A classic West Coast style double IPA, the beer pours a dark amber with a thin, pure white head that lingers a bit longer than Impetuous but eventually fades. The nose gives hints of Citra and Amarillo hops, candied fruit and toffee. The taste matches and features a strong malt backbone juxtaposed against rich, fruity hops that perfectly balance out a mild bitter finish, with the nearly 10 percent alcohol content remarkably well hidden.
Of the brewery’s three offerings, Mighty Ego fell flat. This IPA pours a light amber with a nose of mostly herbal hops. The malt body is toned down in this one, creating a beer that is a bit bitter without much else going on. Hints of earthy hop tones and a malt sweetness are decimated by just a bit too much bittering hops. It’s not a bad beer, but the word ‘generic’ comes to mind, with nothing setting it apart from the thousands of other IPAs on the market. It’s a bit disappointing, because not only can Irish Mafia brew an incredible IPA, but Mighty Ego also appears to be the flagship brew, sold in four-pack pint cans at the brewery.
In all, Irish Mafia shows promise, specifically with their big beers. If Devoted is a good example of how they handle imperial styles, the prospect of Russian Imperial Stouts is especially exciting.
Aside from their new stout, however, Mansfield didn’t specify what else the brewery has planned for the future, which means we’ll all have to wait patiently to see the Irish Mafia’s next hit.
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