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  • Writer's pictureSean Tinney

What is an Irish Red Beer?

What exactly is an Irish beer, and which ones are available at Bridge City?

The Irish Red Ale is a copper-red to reddish-brown ale that pulls flavors from the malts used. It has sweet caramel malt flavors and aromas reminiscent of candied caramel and toasted bread. It has some bitterness with an approachable hoppiness. They’re low ABV and brewed as either an ale or a lager.

Simple, yet complex, these beers get their reddish and copper hues from the Crystal malt used. Sometimes, they’re brewed with roasted barley for a darker color and increased flavor depth. These two specialty malts are combined with base malts, usually a British pale malt, to turn the Irish Red into the sweet and bready beer it is.

Don’t just drink this style in the middle of March – it’s enjoyable year-round.

A Brief History of the Irish Red

Truth be told, Ireland is more so known for its spirits, particularly whiskey, instead of its beers. Historical Irish brewers had to make do with the available ingredients which weren’t always abundant or of the highest quality. Native hops were tough to grow in the cold climate and imports were expensive at times.

Despite these brewing tribulations, Ireland gave us one of the most notable, drinkable, approachable and cherished beer styles the world has ever seen. Irish Red beers are a product of Irish ingenuity and craftsmanship. From poor climates to vicious taxation laws, brewers had to make the style work with simple ingredients and brewing methods.

Brewers used native malts mixed with lightly roasted barley instead of more expensive imports like British caramel malts to make Irish Red beers. At times, they even used herbs in place of hops to make a different drink called Gruit. Sullivan’s Brewery brewed the first commercial Irish Red beer in the early 1700s.

What’s the Difference Between an Irish Red and an American Amber?

These two styles are very similar, but they have their differences. They make use of similar malts and both are brewed as either an ale or a lager.

The difference between an American Amber and an Irish Red is the ingredients used. Irish Reds use British malts and hops. American Ambers use American ingredients. Irish Reds have a sweeter malt taste and lower bitterness than American Ambers. Unlike some Irish Reds, American Ambers don’t use roasted barley.

Irish Red beers and American Ambers are very similar with few differences. They’re each highly drinkable and appeal to all kinds of beer drinkers.

What is an American Amber?

The American Amber is a lot like the Irish Red. Just like its Irish cousin, American Amber is brewed as either an ale or a lager.

American Amber ales and lagers are classified by their reddish-copper hues. They’re brewed with caramel malts for a sweet toasted toffee taste. They feature American malts and American hops like Cascade and Centennial. Lager versions retain maltiness with a cleaner taste and thinner mouthfeel. Ale versions are toastier and sweeter with more body.

As with most American beer styles, the American Amber has roots in other styles, using American ingredients as the differentiator between it and its ancestors.

Irish Red Beers Available at Bridge City Beverage

Here is a list of Irish Red Beer options currently available at Bridge City Beverage. Check out our Irish Beer Variety Pack if you’re in the mood for other Irish styles like Irish Stouts or Golden Ales.

  • Brand: George Killian’s, Coors Brewing Company

  • From: Golden, Colorado

  • Style: American Red Lager/Amber

  • ABV: 5.4%

  • Taste: Malty sweetness from the caramel malt used to brew it. The amber hue comes from these toasted, sweet grains—thick white head.

  • Brand: Smithwick’s, Guinness

  • From: Dublin, Ireland

  • Style: Red ale/Amber

  • ABV: 4.5%

  • Taste: Sessionable and drinkable with sweet malt notes. Hints of bread. Brewed with an estery yeast strain for a fruity aroma. Floral aroma from dry-hopping.

  • Brand: Great Lakes Brewing Company

  • From: Cleveland, Ohio

  • Style: Red ale

  • ABV: 6.3%

  • Taste: Toffee and subtle raisin aroma. Full-bodied with caramel flavors. Slight malt bitterness with a long dry finish.

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