Style Profile: Irish Red Ale


OG: 1.036 – 1.046
FG: 1.010 – 1.014
SRM: 9 – 14
IBUs: 18 – 28
ABV: 3.8% – 5.0%

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re releasing a new beer next week called Coaster Wagon. It’s an Irish Red Ale, similar to a Smithwick’s or a Kilkenny.

Many people may also be familiar with Killian’s Irish Red – which is a source of confusion when discussing Irish Red beers. Killian’s is actually an amber lager (a completely different style of beer). To be fair, when Coors bought the rights to the brand label for Killian’s, they did originally use it to brand a red ale called “George Killian’s Irish Red: Red Ale”, however, that beer didn’t take off and the brand was subsequently reused for the current beer.

True Irish Red beers can be made as either an ale or a lager – the key is a clean fermentation with no appreciable yeast character. We use our American Ale yeast strain and keep fermentation parameters in check for this purpose. Many commercial examples of this style retain some diacetyl, which give the beer a little bit of “buttery” or “butterscotch” flavor and aroma, as well as a slightly “slippery” mouthfeel. I personally think diacetyl is a flaw in any beer, even where it is commonly accepted, so we let our yeasty-beasties clean that up for us.

An Irish Red should be an easy-drinking, “sessionable” beer. Coaster Wagon comes in toward the top-end of the alcohol range for the style at 5.6%, but it’s still an easy drinking beer you can have a couple of. The style guidelines emphasize balanced and subtle flavors, including malty, soft toffee/caramel sweetness, grainy biscuit, and roasty dryness. Aromas should include low to moderate malty notes and light caramel/toffee. Hop bitterness is really only there to balance out the flavors.

Our version is probably a little high on the roasty malts, which is a common problem with my recipes the first time I scale them up for some reason. In this beer I was more concerned about the color being “red” and the finish being “dry” than I should have been and we could probably dial back the roasted barley a touch. I wanted to serve Coaster Wagon on nitro because I remember enjoying Kilkenny in Toronto that way back when I traveled there for IBM, and I think it’s great with the thick, creamy, nitro head.

As for the name, “coaster wagon” is what my dad used to call the little red wagons we had as kids (the “Radio Flyer” type). My siblings and I had a couple different wagons – both passed down from at least one generation previous – and we were lucky for that. They really don’t make them like they used to. I remember using those things to haul everything from Tonka toys to small-block Chevy motors. Fond memories of incredibly useful toys of yesteryear.

I’m quite happy with how the beer turned out and I hope you’ll join us for a few pints next week!