Introducing Irish Red Ales

Hello fellow beer lovers. This is the next installment of “This Beer for you?” by Brewers Anonymous. The idea is to explore different beers from their history to a recipe to try. How did the style come to be? What can you expect from a popular commercial example? By the end of this article I hope that you will be excited to taste and maybe even brew your own version of the style. If you have any suggestions for future styles let us know and it might be featured in the next “This beer for you?” article.

This article will feature the first beer I have every tried to brew myself, an Irish Red Ale. When you are looking for a relaxed evening with your friends this is a great option. This malt forward beer with some toasty and caramel notes is easy to drink and one worth trying!

The history of this style is a little murky. While there is a mention of “red ales” in an Irish poem from about the 8th or 9th century, the style we know today is more closely related to the Smithwick Draught ale of 1710. The “red ales” of the past may be long and gone but the modern style has its roots in English bitters and Pale ales, focusing more on malts and less on hops, promoting toasty and more importantly caramel flavors of the grains while the hops are typically no where to be found.

While the style says “Irish” Red Ales the style is actually more popular in the United States than in the Ireland. In 1980 Coors Brewing started to brew Killian’s Irish Red and with their money and advertising power they were able to make Irish Red ales popular in the United States. Now you can find many breweries with their own take on the style.

Got you interested? What can you expect when you pop open that bottle? What is the first thing you notice about a beer? How it looks of course! The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines state that the Irish Red Ales are clear and amber in color. Now as you draw the beer to your face next thing you notice is the smell. Your nose will welcome the malt aroma of a lightly caramelly-toasty-toffee character. Now comes the best part, the taste. The caramel malt flavor and sweetness with little to no hops will be easy to enjoy with your friends.

Want to try a commercial example? Why don’t you give Smithwick’s Irish Ale or Kilkenny Irish Beer a try. So grab a pint and toast to good friends and good beer.

If you want to try it for yourself take a look at this silver medal recipe form 2018. Robert Smith of Newton, NJ won a silver medal in Category 9: Scottish & Irish Ale during the 2018 National Homebrew Competition


For 6 gal (22.7 L)

6 lb 7 oz Mild malt (Muntons)

2 lb 12 oz Vienna malt (Weyermann)

15 oz Caramel malt (Briess)

15 oz Carapils (Briess)

15 oz Flaked maize (Thomas Fawcett)

3.2 oz Roasted barley (Muntons)

3 oz Acidulated malt (for mash pH adjustment)

22 g East Kent Goldings, 5.1% a.a. (60 min)

9 g East Kent Goldings, 5.1% a.a. (30 min)

Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale (250 billion cells)

1 Whirlfloc tablet


Original Gravity: 1.051

Final Gravity: 1.012

ABV: 5.1%

IBU: 19

SRM: 14.6


Mash with 4.5 gallons of RO water. Add 4.5 grams Calcium Chloride. Sparge with 5 gallons of RO water with pH adjusted to 5.5 with 10% phosphoric acid. Single-infusion mash at 152° F for 75 minutes. Collect wort, sparge at 168° F rest for 15 minutes and collect wort.

Boil for 90 minutes. Ferment at 68° F for 12 days. Keg and force carbonate.

I hope that this glance at Irish Red Ales has encouraged you to go out and try some yourself and if you decide to brew one I would be the first in line for a pint!

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