Hello, and welcome again to Brew Along with Us! This month, we’ll be taking a look at a simple style that is perfect for this time of year: Irish Red Ale! A malt-forward style that is neither too complex nor over-the-top, but is rather an easy-to drink beer that goes down smoothly. Irish red ales are enjoyed year-round, however, with St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, now’s the perfect time to brew one in preparation for this fun holiday.
Sample any number of commercially-available examples of the style (such as Murphy’s, Beamish, Kilkenny, or the ubiquitous Killian’s) and you will find a beer that has a malty, light to medium body delicately hopped with just enough English hops to make the beer well-balanced. Going overboard on either the malt character or hops can lead to a beer that veers into other styles, such as an amber ale or English bitter. Thus, while an easy beer to drink, it can prove somewhat difficult to brew at times.
A conundrum that crops up from time to time regarding Irish Red Ales is that they are not always ales. In fact, Killian’s Irish Red, one of the most easily recognized examples of the style, is actually brewed as a lager, using lager yeast and fermentation temperatures. This is actually noted in the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) guidelines for the style. When brewed as a lager, it should be cleaner than the ale version, with no noticeable diacetyl. Even brewed as an ale, however, it should be a fairly clean beer, not given to the intense esters that some ales can exhibit. For this recipe (and for simplicity) we will use a good Irish ale yeast.
This style is most often brewed with English malts. For this recipe, we will use Maris Otter as the base malt. Not only is Maris Otter a bit darker than domestic U.S. 2-row, it also has more of a toasted malt character, which can play well into the over maltiness of the beer. In addition, we will use some Simpson’s medium crystal malt for color, residual sweetness, body and head retention. Perhaps most important of all, we will use some roasted barley to give it not only a garnett-ruby color, but also to add a slight dry roastiness in the finish, which is characteristic of the style. You can use any roasted malt to accomplish this, but roasted barley seems to be the traditional way to go.
As far as hops go, it’s English hops all the way! As in most of the U.K., England is the predominant hop-producing country from which most of the other countries traditionally import their hops. We will do a 60 minute addition and a 10 minute addition of Fuggle and Challenger, respectively.
Check the recipe out, and brew along with us! Feel free to make changes as you see fit (I might add an ounce or two more roasted barley, for one) and let us know what you do. Cheers!
All Saint’s Irish Red Ale Recipe! (for final volume of 5.5 gallons)
Estimated O.G. = 1.052
Estimated F.G. = 1.012
Estimated ABV = 5.25%
Estimated bitterness = 25 IBUs
- Mash at 152F for 60 minutes. Proceed with boil as normal.
- Chill to 65F, pitch yeast and ferment at 65-66F for two weeks.
- A secondary fermentation for one week to improve clarity is optional.
Extract Version: Replace the Maris Otter malt with 6 lbs of light dry malt extract. Steep the specialty grains (Simpson’s medium crystal and roasted barley) at 150-155F for 30 minutes using a muslin grain bag. Remove the bag, allowing the grains to drain into the boil kettle. Turn off the flame and dissolve the extract in the kettle. Turn the flame back on, bring to a boil and proceed as normal.