Irish Red is a style that, for me, has somehow slipped through the cracks. I’ve never brewed one, and, honestly, I can’t even remember a time when I thought to myself, “man – I could really go for an Irish red right now”. While certainly not uncommon to find one at a brew pub or bar, it’s safe to say that it’s less common that the lagers, IPAs, and other styles that normally dominate the taps. “Red” beers in general are fairly prevalent, though – red saisons, red IPAs, red rye beers to name a few. When we say red, that really only refers to the final color of the beer. Beer gets darker in color by using malts that have either been roasted or caramelized – when you add some Crystal malt in the right proportion (you can even buy “Carared” malt), this can create red color while also adding some sweetness and body. But, different malts can also get you to that red color. The main idea is that red doesn’t have a flavor or aroma associated with it like black or brown typical do, which usually either imply roast, coffee, chocolate, caramel, nut flavors, etc. That’s cool, because it leaves the spectrum wide open to play around with flavors that will result in a red beer. The Irish Red typically has a slight caramel malt flavor. To me, the red in Irish Red adds a connotation of warmth – toasty, cozy, comforting, maybe even a little booze-y.
The only commercial example of an Irish Red Ale that comes to mind at the moment is Killians, which I’m not very fond of. Each time I’ve had it, it tastes like a Coors Light with red food coloring added. A local brewery near me makes one that is pretty good – they really accentuate the malt flavor and it has a little bit of an English feel. I’m in the mood for something fully of malt flavor, so I put together this recipe inspired by Jamil’s Irish Red that is pretty popular on the web.
- 19 lb Maris Otter
- 0.65 lb Crystal 150 (Muntons)
- 0.65 lb Crystal 40 (Briess)
- 0.5 lb Roasted Barley (Briess)
- 2 oz Kent Goldings (7.2% a.a.) 60 minutes
- WYeast Irish Ale
- WYeast London ESB 1986
// Mash-in at 1.38 qt/lb (7 gal) at 154F for 60 minutes. Mash-out at 168F. Sparge to collect 13.5 gallons 1042 wort. Boil hard 75 minutes. Chill to 68, infuse w/ 60 seconds pure O2, Pitch 1L starters. Brewed 2/2/15 //
UPDATE (2/9/15): Fermentation slowed down significantly, took a sample of both. The English is excellent – great toasted bread and cookie malt aroma and flavors with a modest amount of esters. Also some noticeable bitterness and hop flavor in the finish, which is a little rough (leaves a little lasting zing on the palate), but I think it’ll smooth out over time. I’m not crazy about the character of the Irish – it has a similar flavor profile to the English but everything feels very muted and unexpressive. There’s still a good amount of yeast in suspention (after pulling a sample, a nice layer of yeast formed at the bottom of the sample glass). Both gravities at around 1015. Kegged the English, and I’m gonna let the Irish go a few more days in the primary before deciding what to do with it. I might add a small amount of dry hops, or toss in some oak to give it a little character.
This was a delicious beer that I fully enjoyed for the entirety of its tap-life. The malt flavors were spot on – toasty with a heavy dose of toffee and caramel made this a treat in the winter months. Both yeasts were good, but I think the English complimented the malt profile much better. This would have been a great beer to cask condition as well. The bittering hops were a little much initially (it faded after a month or so), I’d probably back down on those and maybe shift some towards the end of the boil to give it just a hint of a fresh hop aroma. The crystal 40 was probably overkill in terms of the sweetness; i think just the crystal 150 and roasted barley would have been fine. Color-wise it was more a light brown than red. As a side note: the Irish yeast half eventually got kegged after being in the primary for around 5 weeks… I was nervous about that, fearing it would pick up some off flavors from being on the yeast too long. After 10 days from pitching, I moved it outside on the porch where it happened to be sub-freezing. It stayed there for about 4 weeks before I eventually kegged it. It weirdly kind of lagered itself, got super clear, and wound up tasting really clean – no yeast character at all, really!