Craft The Perfect Draft - Irish Red Ale

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Brew day morning for me started out around an hour after sunrise on a cold and dreary Saturday morning. The night before I had collected fifteen gallons of reverse osmosis water in the large igloo cooler I use for preparing my brewing water. I had already picked up freshly crushed grains earlier that day along with the hops and yeast needed for this recipe. Now with my water profile adjusted and all of the ingredients in place, I filled the kettle with brewing water, set the controller's temperature to 160F, opened the valve and switched on the recirculation pump. While the kettle's electric element heated the water I had time to get the grains and BIAB mesh grain bag ready to put in the kettle and then find something interesting to watch on the brew room TV.

I've consistently been getting 72-75% efficiency on my eBIAB system, using a single grain crush and stirring the mash a little every fifteen minutes or so. Using a pitch rate calculator to determine the amount of healthy yeast needed for a good fermentation, the apparent attenuation rates have also consistently averaged between 74-76% as well. I thank the High Gravity EBC-SV PID controller on my RIMS and the STC-1000+ based BrewsBySmith Fermentation Kit for maintaining tight temperature control throughout the mash and fermentation for this consistency.

As the mash timer ticked down I prepared the kettle additions, watched a little TV and heated up a few gallons of sparge water. When the mash was finished I used the grain hoist to raise the grain basket out of the wort and tied it off to the wall cleat to hold it in place. With the grain basket suspended above the kettle I opened the grain bag and poured the hot sparge water over the grains until I reached my pre-boil wort volume in the kettle. With the PID controller set now to boil the wort, the grain out completed and the grains disposed of there was plenty of time left to get the fermentors and yeast ready before it was time for the first hop addition.

Fast forward ten days later and the beer was finally ready to package, the final gravity readings hadn't changed in two days, so half the batch was kegged and the other half bottled and primed with pure cane sugar. The kegged beer was force carbonated with 25 psi of Co2 at 37F for three days, before dropping the pressure down to 12 psi, in order to have it ready to serve in time for an upcoming party. The bottled beer would take at least two more weeks before it was sufficiently carbonated and could be allowed to condition for another month, or longer if I was very lucky, than the kegged beer.
Style: Irish Red Ale
Estimated OG=1.056, IBU=26, SRM=15, FG=1.014, ABV= 5.5%
Marris Otter Malt - 92%
Melanoidin Malt - 7%
Roasted Barley - 1%
Kent Goldings (UK) - 4 ounces @ 30 minutes
57 ppm - calcium
16 ppm - magnesium
00 ppm - sodium
93 ppm - chloride
78 ppm - sulfate
Safale S-04 Dry Ale Yeast

Now that this recipe has been brewed, the beer it produced enjoyed and commented on favorably by all who've tried it I think the only change I'd make next time would be to reduce the amount of roasted barley used by four ounces. This change would be intended only to lighten the red color by a shade or two, not to modify the taste or flavor of the beer. The 90 minute boil added some nice carmalization to the beer that blended perfectly with the malty flavor and aroma, but I would try a 120 minute boil next time just to see what that would do for the finished beer. If you ever want to brew a very drinkable malt forward beer, one that combines slight sweetness with a dry finish, I highly recommend that you try your hand at brewing a nice Irish Red Ale.
Irish Red Ale
Vince Feminella [aka: ScrewyBrewer]
[email protected]
Nice little article, thank you. Can't wait for the snow to melt a little so I can try my first all-grain batch!
Love a good irish red ale!!
First - I'm jealous of your setup... one day... one day...
You can throw some cara red in there to up the red hue as well. I use about 2% Roasted and cara red. The color looks DARK in the glass, but when held to the light it is a brilliant deep ruby red.
Try the Wyeast 1084 ... it works well with the style. White Labs also has an irish ale yeast that should work.
For fun, throw a pound of GOOD honey in at flameout while whirlpooling. Adds a little something :)
Some golden naked outs for body...
I like Irish Reds btw... brewed a few.
@ericbw yes it's for a 10 gallon batch, for five gallons using the same percentage of grains, and half the amount of hops, should get you very close.
Thanks for the article! I recently went on my first red ale, with a pinch of rye :) However, I came to understand that there is no such thing as caramelization in brewing, as no adequate temperature is reached. Was I misled?
@Micha malt caramelization can be achieved in the kettle, through a long boil, instead of using Crystal malts. During a two to three hour boil the wort caramelizes, or darkens, as the sugar molecules change causing them reflect light differently.
The extended boil time also increases the Malliard reaction in the wort to produce complex flavors that would not have time to develop any other way in a shorter boil. A classic Ale example of this process is the Scottish Wee Heavy, or otherwise known as a Scotch Strong Ale.
@ScrewyBrewer what are your thoughts on keeping the boil length as it is, but pulling off a few quarts off the first runnings to boil down separately and add back in?
@brettwasbtd once the weather here warms up I might be tempted to do a decoction mash but time being limited as it was I chose to do an extended full wort boil instead. Mashing done using brew in a bag doesn't actually have first runnings in the traditional sense of the word.
Now that I've tasted a sample that's been carbonating for only a few weeks, I can certainly tell there is a level of maltiness in the Wee Heavy I've never tasted before. I say if you're up to it do an extended boil and try boiling your first runnings too.
@Handsaw to accentuate the rich malt flavor for the Irish Red Ale I targeted a pH of 5.57 by adding 1ml of 88% Lactic Acid and then added 1g Gypsum, 11g Calcium Chloride and 10g of Epsom Salt to 15 gallons of reverse osmosis water filtered the night before brew day.
@Handsaw here is the water profile for an Irish Red (ppm):
Alkalinty 40-120
Sulfate 100-300
Chloride 50-100
RA - 0-60
Do not acidify.
Thanks for the recipe ! I tried it last week-end, with Pilsner + a little bit of Cara-120 to replace the Marris Otter. Let's wait and see... ;-)