The Irish Red and How to Brew It

Irish Red

Overview

Another one of our favorites for not only the fall but all year long is the Irish Red Ale. The Irish Red, which is significantly more popular in the United States than in its namesake, is an easy-drinking, malty beer that has notes of caramel, toffee, and even some roastiness. There is just enough bitterness to counter the sweetness of the unfermentable sugars produced by the dark caramel and roasted malts. The BJCP guidelines are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.040 – 1.048
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.0% – 4.8%
  • Bitterness: 20-28 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 11-18

Irish Red Ingredients

Malt

For the Irish Red, most brewers prefer to use a British Pale Ale malt, such as Maris Otter, as the base as opposed to American 2-row. The British malts are usually a little darker and add a mild malty flavor with slight nuttiness and biscuit characteristics. Maris Otter also has good enzymatic strength and low nitrogen content, which pairs nicely with the roasted malts. Nitrogen content and protein are directly connected, with the protein count being equal to the nitrogen content multiplied by 6.25. The higher the protein, the fewer the starches. For the caramel flavor, I would add caramel malt, but only up to 60L. Any higher and you’ll start to get undesirable flavors such as dried fruit and burnt sugar. The color will come from a small amount of chocolate malt or roasted malt.

Hops

The hop aroma and flavor for this style are low to non-existent, so avoid using American hops that are very citrusy. I would recommend using English hops such as Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, which are both described below. You’ll want a slightly sweet start with a slightly dry finish.

Flavoring and Aroma Hops

  • East Kent Goldings – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 4 and 6 percent, and adds a sweet, silky, honey character.
  • Fuggles – has an alpha acid percent ranging between 3.5 and 5.5 percent, and adds a woody, earthy character

Yeast

For this style of beer, you want a yeast that has a nice malt roundness but also has a low ester profile. You also want it to attenuate enough so that there is not too much sweetness.

  • Irish Ale – 1084 (Wyeast)
    • This strain ferments very well in darker worts and produces a dry, crisp profile when fermented at cooler temperatures (below 64 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything above 64 degrees Fahrenheit and the fruit/complex esters will increase.
  • Irish Ale – WLP004
    • This strain really shines in the British malty beer styles. It has medium attenuation that helps with a dry finish that promotes roasty notes.

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 65 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a sample Irish Red. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.043
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.014
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.2%
  • Bitterness: 21.5 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 13.6

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 7 lbs (87.5%)
  • Caramel/Crystal 40L – 12 oz (9.4%)
  • Chocolate Malt – 2 oz (1.6%)
  • Roasted Barley – 2 oz (1.6%)

Hops

  • 1 oz of Fuggle at 60 minutes (16.5 IBU)
  • 0.35 oz of East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes (4.9 IBU)

Yeast

  • Irish Ale – 1084 (Wyeast)

Mash

Add your salts and pH adjustment, if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit.  For me, it is 2.5 gallons at 163.7 degrees. Mash for 60 minutes at 152 degrees and proceed to mash out. Sparge with 5.25 gallons of water. Pre-boil gravity should be around 1.038.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops as needed. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients. You can add whirlfloc tablets at 5 minutes if you want to. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity and pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.043. I let this free rise to 67 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 67 degrees for 5-7 days until you are about 4 specific gravity points away from terminal gravity. At this point, let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees for the diacetyl rest. Once fermentation is complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.2 – 2.4 vols. For this style, a little less carbonation can help showcase the malt flavor. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Irish Red recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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