Irish red ale, red ale, or Irish ale is a name used by brewers in Ireland. A smooth malty beer with a rich red colour and a hoppy, fruity palate. The color can be anything from red to brown to deep reddish copper or some variation in between. The red color comes from the use of small amounts of dark or roasted grains. These are malty brews with a moderate to heavy mouthfeel and often present a rich, caramel flavor throughout. In the United States, the name can describe a darker amber ale or a “red” beer that is a lager with caramel colouring. The basic Red Ale tends not to focus on a big hop presence and keeps the IBU’s down even lower than a basic Pale Ale.
The flavour will be quite clean, low to moderate malt aroma, generally caramel-like but occasionally toasty or toffee-like in nature. May have a light buttery character (although this is not required). Hop aroma is low to none (usually not present). May contain some adjuncts (corn, rice, or sugar), although excessive adjunct use will harm the character of the beer. Generally has a bit of roasted barley to provide reddish color and dry roasted finish. UK/Irish malts, hops, yeast. Medium-light to medium body, although examples containing low levels of diacetyl may have a slightly slick mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation. Smooth. Moderately attenuated (more so than Scottish ales). May have a slight alcohol warmth in stronger versions.
The main variation in Irish Red Ale is in the alcoholic strength; domestic Irish versions tend to be lower in alcohol, approximately 3.5-4% ABV, while “export” versions can be up to 6%. However, some examples, notably Murphy’s Irish Red, can also be brewed as lagers. Lager versions should not have too much of a lager character but will necessarily be somewhat different from the ale-brewed versions.