Saturday, 14 August 2010

Red is THE Colour...

A style of beer that has always appealed to me has suddenly been thrust into the limelight:

'Red Ale'.

The Thornbridge/Odell collaboration 'Colorado Red', Hardknott's Infra-Red, Brewdog's 5 am Saint & others, you can see Zak Avery's take on Hardknott's Infra-Red Oxymoronic IPA here.

This style really is 'a la mode' as our Gallic friends might say.

As a style subset this is a really interesting area, there is a lot a flexibility within this style for the brewer, grist make-up can vary quite dramatically, you can really get away with adding any type of malt to a 'Red ale' although in some cases small amounts, i.e. Chocolate malt used sparingly can give a deep ruby colour and some interesting malt notes, Amber malt for a touch of colour and smokiness, Munich for colour and malt sweetness the list goes on...

 When it comes to hops the combination's are also truly endless, something that seems to be a relative standard in this style is a quite assertive hop bitterness and a heavy aroma addition, the levels of variables in this style lead me to think this will become an area that will be heavily explored by the UK craft scene in the coming years. I see a range of benefits from this; a staging point for stalwart brown bitter drinkers to take a sidestep and enjoy some variation and who knows a widening of their vision towards other styles,  it also for some may prove to be a welcome diversion from the hugely popular pale & hoppy style sweeping the UK craft sector.

Although 'sessionable' red ales for the on-trade will be a whole new challenge altogether, something we tackled earlier this year a special called 'Redwood' at 4.0% abv. we brewed with plenty of Munich malt & loads of Simcoe hops & it proved to be really popular as it seemed to fill a gap in the market & really appealed to licensees.

I hope this style really is here to stay & be explored for the foreseeable future and who knows there may be some real new stars born.  It is an area I will be devoting my 'full' attention to later this year but in the meantime I'll be sure to be seeking out these gorgeous redheads for further attention.


Leigh said...

Amber Ales are a great style that we don't do a lot of over here - I like them because of thier sheer simplicity. I've been brewing one for years on my home kit that's single hopped with Northern Brewer - it's lovely. Basic as hell but tastes great - and incredibly sessionable.

James, Brewer @ SWB said...

Leigh - I think that's the allure of this style the fact a red/amber ale can be as complex or as simple as you like, I have to say i'm a fan of Northern Brewer hops, a good 'utility' hop.

Leigh said...

Yeah, a decent hop for small-scale homebrewing. proving hard to get these days though.

Anonymous said...

Had the lucky job of judging American Red/Ambers at the World Beer Cup earlier this year... Amazing diversity of malt and hop flavours and bloody great inspiration!!