Donnie Iris puts his name behind his beer, King Cool Light
By Rege Behe
Published: Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Ben Roethlisberger has his own barbecue sauce, and Jerome Bettis has the Grille 36 restaurant.
Now, another local icon is endorsing a product.
Get ready to welcome King Cool Light, a beer promoted by King Cool himself, Donnie Iris.
"It's a really good beer," says Iris, the Beaver County singer who is known for the hit singles "Ah, Leah" and "Love Is Like a Rock." "I just hope people will like it."
King Cool Light is the brainchild of Mark Avsec, Iris' longtime keyboardist and an intellectual-property lawyer. Iris, who admits to enjoying an occasional light beer, liked the idea, but with one caveat: This was not going to be a vanity project, or product. Iris insisted that anything he endorsed was going to be of quality.
Enter Gary Medved, a Uniontown native who owns a manufacturing business in Northeast Ohio. Medved, a fan of Iris' music, was reluctant to get involved despite thinking that King Cool Light was a superb marketing idea. It was only after some cajoling by Avsec that he finally relented to immersing himself in the vagaries of brewing beer.
"I have to tell you, it's been one of the most fun and rewarding projects I've worked on," Medved says.
And perhaps one of the most painstaking. Medved hired a brewer and tried numerous recipes in blind taste tests. Iris continually turned down various iterations when they failed to satisfy his criteria, or thirst.
"The thing with most light beers is they all pretty much taste the same," Iris says. "You can't tell the difference between them. I wanted something with flavor, something I didn't have to drink ten beers to enjoy."
The eureka moment came when Iris took home a couple of bottles this summer and opened them after dinner. Almost immediately, he knew it was the right recipe.
"I guess the closest it would be is to a Sam Adams light," Iris says of the taste and color of the beverage. "It's in that kind of ballpark. It's certainly not like Miller Light or a Coors Light. ... It's certainly not like Guinness or anything like that. But it does have flavor and a nice overall taste that I really like. I'm putting my name behind it because I do like it."
Medved sought a brewery in the Pittsburgh area, but none could meet the capacity he wanted. The Lion Brewery of Wilkes Barre, Luzerne County, will handle the brewing of King Cool Light, which has undergone numerous blind taste tests with non-partisan beer lovers.
"It's come in No. 1 or No. 2 every time," Medved says.
The official release for King Cool Light will be Nov. 20 at Diesel, South Side, during a concert by Iris and his band, the Cruisers. Medved says the plan is to start with the Pittsburgh area, and gradually expand distribution throughout Western Pennsylvania. Iris also plans to do some guest-bartender gigs in the area, with a few spots in his native Beaver County.
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