As St. Patrick’s Day, or Evacuation Day if you are a state employee, approaches there are no more appropriate styles of beer to enjoy than the traditional Irish Red and Irish Stout. The most prominent examples are brewed by Guinness: Smithwick’s Ale and Guinness Draught. Smithwick’s is a fine example of the Irish Red style, as well as O’Hara’s Irish Red, Samuel Adams under-appreciated Irish Red, and Harpoon Celtic Red. Another well known ‘Irish Red”, Killians Irish Red, a beer that used to be my go-to when it was a $2 tall draught at the old Uno’s in Danvers, was actually bought by Coors and reformulated as a lager. It probably has more in common with a Yuengling than a traditional Irish Red. To be fair, I haven’t had it in a very long time.
In The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Charlie Papazian said an Irish Red should taste like a batch of fresh-baked cookies. This comes from the sweet caramel malts that give the beer its red color, and a small amount of dark roasted barley. Roasted barley is what gives Irish stout it’s dark color and roasted flavor. In an Irish Red, a much smaller amount of roasted barley not only further darkens the beer, but it helps dry out the finish of a beer that would otherwise finish quite sweet. The sweetness of the malt is cookie-like, and the roasted barley provides a similar flavor to chocolate chips.
Like the Walk-off White, the Rundown Irish Red is a beer I last brewed in 2013. I was quite happy with how the beer turned out at that time. This time I made a few changes to the recipe I thought would make the beer better, simplify the recipe, and utilize leftover ingredients from previous batches. The original recipe used three different caramel malts (10L, 120L, and CaraRed) and roasted barley. For this batch I eliminated the CaraRed which in itself doesn’t add much in the way of flavor. I used Special B leftover from the Ground Rule Double which will provide a more intense dried fruit and burnt sugar flavor than the 120L Caramel malt. To provide a lighter sweetness I added an equal amount of Honey Malt.
In 2013 I was still mostly an extract brewer. I easily could have saved myself a bit of time and brewed this with just extract and steeped specialty grains, but I wanted most of the base malt to be Irish. I used Malting Company of Ireland Irish Stout Malt as my base malt, and topped it off with 3.15 lbs of Maris Otter extract. Hop flavor is low to none; 0.75 oz Bramling Cross provided more than enough bitterness. I pitched a decent sized yeast starter of Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale yeast which I plan to use in at least my next two batches.
St. Patrick’s Day is on a Tuesday this year. I am well past dealing with the crowds and people who only go out twice a year making complete fools of themselves. At 5.0% ABV, this Irish Red can be enjoyed on a quiet night at home and I will be able to make it to work bright and early on Wednesday.