Irish Red Ale

This month we focus on the Irish Red Ale which is a style of sweet, malty ale brewed by many Irish breweries. If you are just venturing into tasting different beers then the Irish Red Ale is a good place to start, rather than dipping into some of the big hitters.

It is a variation of typical English and Irish ales which has a rather red tinge. A small amount of roasted barley is responsible for the reddish colour. The colour can vary from red-amber-copper to light brown.


There isn’t a massive history attached to Irish Red Ale, it originated in Ireland (duh) in the town of Kilkenny in 1710. In its homeland where stouts like Guinness dominate, it does not have a huge following, but in the US it has recently become more popular.


Appearance: As the name "Irish Red Ale" suggests most examples have a deep reddish hue. The colour can vary from amber to a deep reddish-copper colour. The beer is usually very clear and crowned with a low off-white to tan coloured head.

Aroma: Hop aroma is low to none. The use of roasted barley gives this beer a low to moderate malt aroma which is generally caramel-like. Occasionally a toasty or toffee-like aroma is present.

Taste: In most examples of this beer there is a moderate caramel sweetness with an occasional toffee like quality. There is generally no hop flavour so medium to low bitterness should be expected. They are usually medium bodied with a medium-dry to dry finish. Generally clean and smooth.


The main ingredient is English or Irish malt with a touch of roasted barley to provide red colour and dry roasted flavour. English hops and ale yeast are used although sometimes lager yeast is added as well. The use of rice, corn or sugar as adjuncts in small amounts is permissible as long as it does not interfere with the character of the beer.

Food Pairing

As the Irish Red Ale is well balanced and rather unobtrusive it combines well with a large variety of food. Try it with chicken, fish or (beers favourite) meat. Don’t be afraid to try it with something a little spicy, the smooth caramel sweetness and clean dry finish will help wash down that really hot curry, be that Indian or Thai, with ease.

What Glass to use:

The plain old Beer Mug or Pint Glass are the traditional serving vessels for Irish Red Ale. 


Commercial Examples

There are the obvious examples of Kilkenny and Murphy’s Irish Red which if you haven’t tried yet should definitely give them a try, but closer to home there are 2 fine examples – “Gilroy Traditional” is brewed to the style of an Irish red, as well as the Copperlake Irish Red Ale which is available at the “Brazenhead” Pub in the Leaping Frog centre on Fourways, as well as “Meet Martini” in Lonehill.


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Leza says: June 16, 2011

I know it's not an Irish Red, but Camelthorns American Red Ale is simply lovely and if you in the Cape Area you should give it a try...

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