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TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Red Ale

It’s as comforting as an evening in an Irish pub, says Samuel Adams about its Irish Red Ale, which brings together a roasted malt sweetness with a light but earthy hoppiness.

So head out and pick up some Irish Red to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish Red Ale is a refreshing, lighter beer style closely related to English Bitters. As with all recipes, there are numerous variations; but all tend to have the characteristic deep red color and mild flavor.

In Ireland, the brew is called Irish Red Ale, Red Ale, or Irish Ale. Imports from Ireland include Beamish Red Ale, Caffrey’s Irish Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red and Smithwick’s.

Among American-brewed Irish Reds, look for Goose Island’s Kilgubbin Red Ale, Great Lakes Brewing’s Conway’s Irish Ale and Saranac Brewery’s Irish Red Ale.


Look for Irish Red in the bottle. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.

According to, some experts characterize Irish Red as a sub-category of English Bitters or Pale Ales. Others, including the Beer Judge Certification Program, believe Irish Red stands as its own distinct style.

Adding to confusion, some American craft brewers have taken American Amber Ales, added coloring or a bit of roasted malt and called them Irish Red as well.

What’s the difference between an Amber Ale and an Irish Red?

The recipes are very similar. The main difference is the measure of bitterness in the beer. Amber Ales use more hops to achieve more bitterness. The secondary difference is the origin of the hops and the type of malts: Irish Red use more English malts (often toasted malts) and hops, American Amber Ales use more American malts and hops.

For beer drinkers who prefer less hop influence, Irish Reds offer virtually no hop aroma low to moderate hop flavor, as well as low to moderate malty aroma and flavor. They have a very clean finish with a low buttery or toffee flavor. The use of roasted barley for coloring often results in a slight roasted finish and also creates a dry finish for the beer. Unlike English Ales, Irish Red has no ester (fruity) flavors.

As you lift a glass, remember to says “cheers” in Gaelic: sláinte (pronounced SLAWN-cheh)

Check out the different types of beers and beer terminology in our Beer Glossary.


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