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Irish Red Ale - Is There Really Such A Thing?

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MAH

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I keep seeing references to Irish Red Ale, but isn't this just a wanky title the Yanks have given to what is essentially a very lightly bittered Bitter that's usually served with nitrogen?

Does Ireland really have their own beer style? I can see that Scottish ales are distinct from Bitters, it uses similar malts, but the mashing, hoping and in particular fermentation regimes are all quite different.

What is so distinctive about a so called Irish Red Ale? Is it the grain? Is it the mashing technique? Is it the hoping? Is it the fermentation? To me it looks like it's just the serving with nitro and it's Irish sounding name like Kilkenny that make it somehow distinct?

Anyone have some historical account of how it came to be?

Cheers
MAH
 

kook

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MAH said:
I keep seeing references to Irish Red Ale, but isn't this just a wanky title the Yanks have given to what is essentially a very lightly bittered Bitter that's usually served with nitrogen?

Does Ireland really have their own beer style? I can see that Scottish ales are distinct from Bitters, it uses similar malts, but the mashing, hoping and in particular fermentation regimes are all quite different.

What is so distinctive about a so called Irish Red Ale? Is it the grain? Is it the mashing technique? Is it the hoping? Is it the fermentation? To me it looks like it's just the serving with nitro and it's Irish sounding name like Kilkenny that make it somehow distinct?

Anyone have some historical account of how it came to be?

Cheers
MAH
[post="55314"][/post]​
Michael Jackson. Most style guidelines come from his work during the 70's.

IMO its the same with the Scottish ales.

I personally cant understand the destinction between a bitter and a "scottish heavy 70/-". There may be some perceived peat/smokey flavours in a couple but I've had this in bitters too. As for the level of hopping, or fermentation technique its just bull. Many bitters over here are low in IBU. And many so called "scottish ales" are fermented for the same period of time using the same methods as a bitter.

Maybe its just me, but I'd love to sit down and have a blind cask tasting of say 10 bitters and a couple "scottish ales" like Belhaven. It'd be interesting to see if the BJCP judges could pick the scottish ones.

The only exception I could see to this may be the beers coming from Traquair House.
 

nonicman

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The wort is now cooled and pitched with bottom fermenting yeast under controlled temperature. It is then fermented in oak over a period of seven days. The beer is then transferred into cold storage tanks or barrels and matured over a period of weeks. After maturation the beer is filtered prior to packing.
Traquair House Brewery

Maybe that's why it's tastes different. Not really a Scottish Ale or is it? :blink: :unsure: :)
 

wee stu

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kook said:
I keep seeing references to Irish Red Ale, but

IMO its the same with the Scottish ales.

I personally cant understand the destinction between a bitter and a "scottish heavy 70/-". There may be some perceived peat/smokey flavours in a couple but I've had this in bitters too. As for the level of hopping, or fermentation technique its just bull. Many bitters over here are low in IBU. And many so called "scottish ales" are fermented for the same period of time using the same methods as a bitter.

Maybe its just me, but I'd love to sit down and have a blind cask tasting of say 10 bitters and a couple "scottish ales" like Belhaven. It'd be interesting to see if the BJCP judges could pick the scottish ones.

The only exception I could see to this may be the beers coming from Traquair House.
[post="55321"][/post]​
I think this may be an indictment of the homogenisation of British pub, and packaged, beers nowadays, more than anything else. Certainly in the mid to mass market ranges.

Historically, and in the recent past, there certainly has been a marked difference between the indigenous Scottish style and the English.

The last Belhaven I had came in a nitrogenated, widgeted can.
I agree, faced with this insipid, bland travesty and any of the English, or Irish, beers equally bastardised with - I would probably fail at a blind tasting.
Which is a shame, because Belhaven used to have a particulalry "nutty", rather than overtly peaty character, a character common to a number of other Scottish beers - Maclays, Caledonian, even a good McEwan's IPA.

Mind you I always used to think that the version of McEwan's you sometimes found South of the border was a peculiarly aneamic and watered down specimen :D

I spent a number of years in Manchester also, and in an occasional nostalgic moment succumb to a nitrogenated, cream flow pint. Invariably I wonder why I bothered.

Kook - I've been away from the British pub scene for almost 15 years, so I am not going to question your more recent experiences, but believe me the Scottish Ale style is not an invention of Michael Jackson and the 1970s. That it might be hard for you to find now in 21st Century London is sad, but perhaps not so surprising.

Traquair house ales have always been something of an exception :)


awrabest, stu
 

bradmcm

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For many years the main distinction between Scottish and English
bitters was the hop level. Nowadays more and more Scottish brews are
as bitter as their southern counterparts.

As for whether Irish Ale should be a seperate style -
my opinion is no. There is nothing to distinguish them from
the UK beers.
 

Gough

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MAH,

My experience during my 12 months in Ireland (albeit almost 10 years ago...) would lead me to agree with the thrust of your argument. The 'red ales' were just being released in numbers when I was there - Caffrey's was to my knowledge the first big commercial variety, followed by Kilkenny, then Beamish Red, then Murphy's Red. All very ordinary beers, and all targeted at the tourists. Our flat was in Galway and we have famiy in Sligo and no-one I asked either local in the pub or family member (also often in the pub :D )had ever really seen these beers until the '90s. No-one in my experience (other than tourists) drank them either. It wasn't until we went on a trip through the north of England and (sorry Stu) Scotland that I saw anyone really drinking these beers in any quantity. Caffrey's and Kilkenny especially were very popular. Here in Aus they seem to have carved out a niche and fair play to them. Personally I think the look a million dollars, but they just don't taste... well they don't really taste like anything. Kilkenny in particular just seems to have a big hole in its middle where all the flavour should be. Very disappointing.

Which is a very long-winded way of saying that no, my 'pop' syudy of the subject would lead me to believe that these beers are relatively new inventions and can't really be claimed as any kind of Irish 'national beer'. At least not on the west coast anyway...

Shawn.
 

Weizguy

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When I get my act together, I will transcribe from the Irish red article in a 2003 (ish) article about the same, in BYO.

Unless anyone chooses to beat me to the draw...

Seth
 

wee stu

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Weizguy said:
When I get my act together, I will transcribe from the Irish red article in a 2003 (ish) article about the same, in BYO.

Unless anyone beats me to the draw...

Seth
[post="55369"][/post]​
Seth, Zymurgy also ran with the Irish Red Ale theme in their Jan/Feb 2004 issue (I know this 'cos I still have Gulf/Pedro's back issue collection :) ). The gist of this article is that the history is about as clear as Murphy's (or any other Irish) stout!
The oldest known producer is Smithwicks (now part of Guinness). If I cast my mind back to the 80s in the UK, the only Irish beer I knew of that was not a stout was indeed Smithwick's - Smithwick' s Bitter to be exact.

Memory is a fallible, inexact instrument - but I remember that beer to be no different in character, if not in hue, from many of it's English counterparts.

Gough, I am not surprised the Scots are drinking Caffreys and Kilkenny by the bucketful. The Scots are also known to consume Tennants Lager and Carlsberg Special Brew in vast quantities :( .

Maybe it is time to allow myself to become typecast and try and brew a Scottish ale myself? Who knows, it might just be the last one in captivity :excl:
 

Gough

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wee stu said:
The gist of this article is that the history is about as clear as Murphy's (or any other Irish) stout!
The oldest known producer is Smithwicks (now part of Guinness). If I cast my mind back to the 80s in the UK, the only Irish beer I knew of that was not a stout was indeed Smithwick's - Smithwick' s Bitter to be exact.

Memory is a fallible, inexact instrument - but I remember that beer to be no different in character, if not in hue, from many of it's English counterparts.

Gough, I am not surprised the Scots are drinking Caffreys and Kilkenny by the bucketful. The Scots are also known to consume Tennants Lager and Carlsberg Special Brew in vast quantities :( .

Maybe it is time to allow myself to become typecast and try and brew a Scottish ale myself? Who knows, it might just be the last one in captivity :excl:
[post="55370"][/post]​
My (also inexact!) memory has Smithwicks (owned by Guinness by the time - mid 90's - I was there) as a distinctly different beer to the 'red ales' of the Caffrey's/Kilkenny ilk. No nitrogen and more flavour. Wasn't a great beer by any means, but had its own charms.

Sorry, I'm really down on the Irish Red Ales I'm afraid. The nitro sucks even more flavour from them, but I think they are the Budweiser/Miller's/Toohey's Extra Dry of the Brit ale world. There, I've said it! Cast me down...

Flame suit on :ph34r:

Shawn.
 

wee stu

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Gough said:
Sorry, I'm really down on the Irish Red Ales I'm afraid. The nitro sucks even more flavour from them, but I think they are the Budweiser/Miller's/Toohey's Extra Dry of the Brit ale world. There, I've said it! Cast me down...

Flame suit on :ph34r:

Shawn.
[post="55371"][/post]​
In full agreement Shawn :super:
My mongrel heritage includes about 1/4 Irish. Truly I'd love to own these beers, if I thought they had any merit. Sadly I don't :ph34r:

Flame suit redirection disclaimer. In directing anger either to Gough or me, please remember who started this thread.

MAH - the brewery challenged, home demolishing and renovating, s&%t stirrer, par excelence B)
 

Tim

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Im with Shawn and Stu on this one.
My old man is Irish and spent the first half of his life there. He claims that he had never seen Kilkenny or Caffreys there (Dublin). He said that the only pale beers you could get on tap were Harp lager and Courage pale. He also commented that a popular drink was a narfa which was half a pint of Guinness with half a pint of Courage pale.

Upon tasting Kilkenny here in Aus a few years ago he described it as 'flat tooheys draught'.
I tend to agree.
 

MAH

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OK it seems we're in agreement that Irish Red Ales are a load of marketing bollocks and the Yanks were stupid enough to believe the hype and include the "style" in their guidelines.

In particular I like Shawn's description of these blights on the beer world as having a big hole in the middle where the flavour should be. Maybe we should rename the "style" to Irish Doughnut Ales.

Cheers
MAH
 

MAH

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wee stu said:
MAH - the brewery challenged, home demolishing and renovating, s&%t stirrer, par excelence B)
Well Stu after you left last night, I finished knocking out the cabinetary. I'll leave the neighbours in peace and quiet before I resume ripping up the floor with the bad boy of rotary hammer drils the HILTI TE92


Cheers
MAH

1e_1_b.jpg
 

Gough

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MAH said:
OK it seems we're in agreement that Irish Red Ales are a load of marketing bollocks and the Yanks were stupid enough to believe the hype and include the "style" in their guidelines.

In particular I like Shawn's description of these blights on the beer world as having a big hole in the middle where the flavour should be. Maybe we should rename the "style" to Irish Doughnut Ales.

Cheers
MAH
[post="55395"][/post]​
Doughnut Ales it is then MAH :D I think the name says it all. Now where is the number for the BJCP... :p

Shawn.

ps - If anyone disagrees, check out Mah's gun - and he's not afraid to use it :p
 

PostModern

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I reckon a well crafted Red is a nice drop (I agree on Kilkenny being a doughnut tho). Or are you guys saying it's just a bitter with some redness in the colour? Either way, I'll be brewing more of them and calling them "Irish Red" :p
 

jayse

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I just call it 'irish git ale'.
Killkenny doesn't really seem to fit exactly what it is meant to be, i think it gets called a irish red ale because its irish its red and its a ale. I can't even say wether or not the modern australian brewed version is even a ale at all.
The caffereys you can actually tell they use a yeast similar to wyeast 1084 because you can actually taste some of its profile in the beer. Like everyone has said you can't really taste anything in kilkenny, but everynow and again i have tasted a mix of what i percieve as challanger and fuggles.

Anyway the only real historic reference to red ales being made in ireland i have found is The G.H. Lett Brewery of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland.
which was closed in the mid 50's by the last of five generations of brewers in george killian lett, this is were Coors got the name killian red from which by all accounts doesn't seem to be anything like the beer that the letts actually made.

One thing i have found is murphys red ale is meant to be the closest to the style and that beer is nothing at all like a kilkenny actually its pretty close to just a mass produced ale 'swill', from what i vaguely remember anyway.

Anyway i don't have any problem with the name irish red the problem i see it what people think the beer should be. I don't think kilkenny is anywhere near close to the measuring stick of the style but i could be wrong.
Either way brewers can brew and call there brews what they like and the fact does remain most brewers do see irish red as a style of its own, i'am not gunna agree or disagree with that just go along knowing what people mean when they use the term irish red ale.

I like the way irish tourists to australia put it..'your irish pubs are more irish than the ones in ireland'..which of course doesn't really make sense.
With this it looks like even though irish is in the name the irish red ale is not something that you'd get in ireland just like our so called irish pubs.


Sorry i realise iam just ranting.
Anyhow have a lovely afternoon chaps.
Jayse
 

warrenlw63

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jayse said:
I just call it 'irish git ale'.
The caffereys you can actually tell they use a yeast similar to wyeast 1084 because you can actually taste some of its profile in the beer.
[post="55418"][/post]​
Hey Jayse. I know that profile it's called staleness. :)

I think nitro beers all taste basically the same. Below average beers slutted up with nitro. Boddingtons and Caffreys all taste like they're made at the same place.

That's their problem. They all have a sameness.

Warren -
 

Snow

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Well put, Jayse. There can be a lot of discrepency in how people define the Irish Red "style". However, I think if you asked someone to tell you the name of an Irish Red Ale, my gut feel is the majority would say Kilkenny. Most of the brewpubs I have been to that make an Irish Red have tried to clone Kilkenny. I guess it's really just an Amber Ale that's made in Ireland.

- Snow
 

Gulf Brewery

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The other hassle is that they now insist on serving everything "Ice Cold". I had kilkenny off tap a few years ago and the beer was served reasonably warm and it wasn't too bad. The stuff we get now is too cold and no flavour.

Cheers
Pedro
 

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