Behind the Label: The Story of Conway's Irish Ale

On a chilly March day in 1910, the intersection of West 25th and Detroit Avenue on Cleveland’s west side is alive and bustling beneath overcast skies. In a dark, navy blue uniform stands a young Cleveland police officer directing the afternoon traffic. Solidly built and standing just under 6 feet tall with a head of reddish-brown hair, the Irish immigrant stays focused at the task at hand. At a time when stoplights did not exist, conducting traffic was a chance for the police to socialize with the community at-large, but this officer’s Irish ethos kept his interactions limited to the occasional head nod to the passing pedestrians, cars, and horse and buggies.

It wouldn’t be until the end of his shift when Officer Patrick Conway, grandfather to Great Lakes Brewing Co. co-owners Dan and Pat, would unwind after a long day of work.

“Clevelanders knew him to be kind, but he was a quiet man that didn’t like to be the center of attention,” says Pat Conway. “Of course, that didn’t mean he’d never enjoy a jar of ale or two.”

Thus served the inspiration for Conway’s Irish Ale, a beer rich with history and flavor. With artwork created by illustrator Sam Hadley, the Conway’s Irish Ale label brings the Conway story to life in vivid detail. 


A photograph of Pa Conway with his semaphore (L), which inspired the label art for Conway's Irish Ale (R)

“He arrived in the U.S. in 1903 after leaving Slogger, a tiny village outside of Westport in Mayo County. He found work in Cleveland as a police officer, mostly because he was already fluent in English,” explained Pat Conway. “Interestingly enough, he met our grandmother in Cleveland even though she was raised just villages apart from his in Ireland."

Starting a new life in Cleveland didn’t mean Patrick Conway forgot his Irish Catholic roots. On the label you’ll see the steeple of St. Malachi, an Irish Catholic parish still standing today in the same spot where he directed traffic, and just blocks away from where he started raising his family on West 61st.

But after leaving his home to start a new life in America, how quickly was Patrick Conway able to assimilate to the city of Cleveland?

“Well, towards the end of his career, there is a story of him arresting an entire bus of unruly football fans from a certain city Clevelanders share a friendly rivalry with,” says Dan Conway. “I guess he wanted them to stay and enjoy Cleveland for an extra night!”

Brewed as a traditional Irish Red Ale and backed with an arrestingly smooth rap sheet of toasty biscuit and caramel malt flavors, Conway’s Irish Ale is available now throughout our entire distribution footprint. Use our Beer Finder to track some down near you.

Words by Adam Ritterspach

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