Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend or on Tuesday? Instead of reaching for a green-dyed beer, order up an Irish Red Ale, a style brewed for you to enjoy several in a sitting.
Typically lower in alcohol with a lightly sweet, caramel-forward aroma and flavor, these beers have just enough hops and a touch of roasted barley to dry out the beer, which helps produce a smooth-tasting pint.
The best representation of the style in town right now is Hamburg Brewing’s Irish Red Ale. If you seek out this beer, take a moment to appreciate its appearance. A deep, dark red color comes through when light shines through the otherwise copper-colored beer. It’s called an Irish Red for a reason; take a good look at this one before you slug it down.
The 4.8 percent Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of this beer makes it quite easy to slug down, too. Not heavy handed in its aroma, Hamburg’s Irish Red has a caramel and toffee smell, along with a light roast scent.
The beginning of the first sip starts out with a sweetness and a caramel flavor, which is cut soon after with light roasted coffee notes. The roasted flavor also contributes a drying effect to the finish of the beer, which helps make a great Irish Red. Too much sweetness isn’t going to keep you coming back for more, but the light use of hops alongside the roasted barley produces a smooth, drying finish that’s quite pleasing.
Though it looks like it may be a heavy, hearty brew with its dark red hues, Hamburg’s Irish Red is medium bodied, with a good amount of carbonation. It never comes across as too big or thick of a beer, but more as a refreshing alternative. It’s not the most exotic of beer styles nor the most malty in flavor, and you won't blister your tongue from the hoppiness. Instead, it incorporates several ingredients into a well balanced range of flavors, welcomed by even the most novice of craft beer drinkers.
Other locally brewed Irish Red Ales to look for include Old First Ward’s Red Clover and Resurgence Brewing’s Rich’s Red. But if you’re picking one, Hamburg hits on all cylinders with this beer. From the hints of dark red color, to the toffee and roasted malt aromas, and the flavor profile starting with a sweetness and progressing through to a dry, slightly bitter, roasty finish.
Ditch the green beer this year, and drink a locally brewed Irish Red instead.
Hamburg Brewing Company’s Irish Red Ale, $5 for 16 oz. glass, 6553 Boston State Road, Hamburg, NY 14075
Matt Kresconko also writes about beer as Buffalo Brewhound at wnycraftbeer.com. Follow him on Twitter @BfloBrewHound