In the color spectrum of beers, we tend to think most often of the pale goldens, coppery browns, and deep, chocolatey stouts. Then red beers show up and confuse the hell out of us. Red (or really reddish) beers aren’t all similar—you’ll see below, the Flanders style has a sourness that really differentiates it—but it’s actually kind of useful to get at least a glimpse of what you might be tasting when you pour a red beer.
American Red Ale (or Lager) Essential Info
- Color: Amber to copper
- ABV: 4.5%-7%
- Commercial Examples: Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, Lagunitas Censored Ale, St. Rogue Red Ale
The name says it all—an American style of beer (ale or lager) that’s made with a proportion of caramel and specialty malts that nudges beer color to the ruddier, redder end of the beer rainbow. The color should clue you in to the flavor: American ambers (lager or ale) feature more emphasis on malt, with anything on the toasty to fruity to caramelly fair game. But since Americans love hops, you can also expect some impact there, certainly more so than in an Irish Red. (In fact, ambers can also be brewed as IPAs and as Imperial/Double styles.)
Irish Red Ale (or Lager) Essential Info
- Color: Amber to copper/red
- ABV: 4%-6%
- Commercial Examples: Smithwick’s Irish Red, Goose Island Kilgubbin Red Ale, Sam Adams Irish Red
Like American Reds (aka Ambers), Irish Red Ale is more about the malt content. Hops, and even a discernible bitterness, may be present to some degree, but more than that you’ll get notes of toast, caramel, buttery toffee, and some malty sweetness. But don’t let “sweetness” fool you—this style’s generally got a nice dry finish, thanks to the roasted grain quality from the malt. It can be brewed as an ale or a lager.