ROUND 1 CHAMPION, 2/2/13
BEER STYLE: Irish Red
BREWERY: Lucid Brewery
Our 1st ever Top Brewer MN beat out 23 other phenomenal competing brewers to claim his title! Round 1 began in the fall of 2012 at 4 BluePlate Restaurants and the finals took place at Lucid Brewery. (more info)
Believe it or not, this was the first Irish Red that I have ever put together and brewed. Just like you would if you were cooking a meal for the first time, I did some research on recipes that have worked in the past. Brewers that have decided to try all-grain brewing will usually read through some of the more well known publications out there like Jamil Zainascheff and John Palmer’s Brewing Classic Styles or do web based searches on other recipes to find out what to use. That’s what I did too.
My malt bill for this beer was a bit unique because I didn’t know how any of the crystal malts would react with the base malt that I had never used before. The base malt is a newly released Irish-red-specific malt by the Malting Company of Ireland that Lucid was gracious enough to provide to the brewers. Using a new malt for a competition that was this important was right up my alley. I don’t get all worked up or concern myself with ingredient specifics. I toss what I think might work into the kettle and see what happens. In hindsight I would probably have used a little bit less highly-kilned crystal malt so that it wasn’t QUITE as dark, but it works. I would urge you to order one and hold it up to a light. Be proud and let your inner beer geek shine! People will notice, ask what you’re drinking and share a pint with you.
I went with a traditional bittering hop but also blended in relatively small amounts of non-traditional US hops which was a call I made on a whim, to be quite honest. “this should work with that…” and turns out it does in this beer. Hop additions are minimal in this one.
Finally, and quite possibly the most important note about the beer was the control of the fermentation temperature. Because of the low outdoor ambient temperatures when I made the beer, and with a thermostat in my garage, the low fermentation temperature for this beer was VERY deliberate. This lack of yeast esters really leaves the beer with a clean, crisp finish and this is very important for a beer that should be quite easy to drink.
The aroma for the beer could be described as balanced blend of sweetness and malty/roasty aromas. Traditional Irish red ales should be balanced beers with a moderate malt character that have a roasty or toasted notes up front. Nothing should be overwhelming – balance is important. The bittering from the hops should be subdued for this style and my recipe is no different. It is absolutely a malt-forward beer which is not something I normally create. There is a tiny bit of bitterness created from the dark crystal and roasted malts which, in my opinion, is balanced with the bitterness offered by the hops.
With an ABV that should be right around 4.8-5.0%, my idea was to put together a roasty/toasty, malt-forward beer that had a unique but subdued bitterness that finished with a very small amount of sweetness but very clean overall. I wanted a relatively low alcohol and easy drinking beer that really could be enjoyed by both “dark” and “light” beer drinkers. If you just really can’t or don’t “do dark beer” please give this one a try. Order a small taster at a bar or restaurant. You’ll only be under a few ounce obligation rather than a full pint. It might not be your thing and that’s fine, but I tell you the truth when I say that a divot Budweiser drinking family member of mine who tried it was quite pleasantly surprised at how “light” it drank- despite it being a “dark” beer.