Irish Red Ale Recipe: Mastering the Perfect Brew

Irish Red Ale recipes are a popular choice among homebrewers, as this classic beer style provides a refreshing and unique malt-focused flavor. Originating from Ireland, this beer style is closely related to English Bitters. In this article, we will provide you with an Irish red ale recipe as well as share with you all of the essential aspects of this beer so you can design your own recipe that properly balances the maltiness and moderate hop bitterness required to brew this beer.

When brewing an Irish Red Ale, pay attention to key ingredients such as Maris Otter as a base malt, specialty grains for caramel and toasty notes, and hop selections that compliment the malt profile without overpowering it.

Following tried-and-true recipes or experimenting with your own variations, you can achieve the perfect Irish Red Ale by focusing on the right balance of malt and hops and proper fermentation practices.

The History of Irish Red Ale

Irish Red Ale has its roots dating back to the early 1700s in the city of Kilkenny. Although ale had been brewed in Kilkenny at St. Francis Abbey since the 14th century, the beginnings of Irish Red Ale can be traced to a brewery established by Daniel Sullivan in 1702.

In the late 19th century, Irish brewers began to create their own versions of a Bitter – a lighter, refreshing style of beer that was popular in England. The Irish Stout was already a familiar name, but the Irish wanted to develop a full-flavored yet light and drinkable beer.

To achieve this, they adopted brewing techniques and methods that led to the creation of Irish Red Ale. The beer’s distinct red hue comes from the use of lightly roasted malt, which imparts a caramel and toffee sweetness, balanced by a moderate dose of hops. The resulting beer is known for its smooth and approachable qualities, making it a favorite among beer enthusiasts.

Smithwick’s brewery of Kilkenny, Ireland was the first to introduce this beer style to the world and has since become synonymous with Irish Red Ale. Over the years, it has gained popularity and spread across the globe, with many microbreweries and homebrewers creating their own variations of this traditional Irish recipe.

While Irish whiskey may have been the primary focus for Ireland in the past, the rich history and continued growth of Irish Red Ale serve as a testament to the country’s passion and dedication to quality brewing. So as you raise a glass of this amber-hued brew, remember the centuries of tradition and innovation that have gone into perfecting this delightful and easy-drinking beer.

Irish Red Ale Recipe

This Irish Red Ale recipe will make 5 gallons (around 19 liters) of beer.



8 lbs Pale Malt (2-row – preferably Marris Otter)
1 lb Munich Malt
0.5 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt (40L)
0.25 lb Melanoidin Malt
0.25 lb Chocolate Malt


1 oz East Kent Goldings (bittering, 60 minutes)
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings (flavor, 15 minutes)


1 packet of Irish Ale Yeast (e.g., Wyeast 1084 or White Labs WLP004)


Priming Sugar: 5 oz corn sugar (for bottling)
Optional: Irish Moss or Whirlfloc tablet (for clarifying)

Equipment Needed:

Brew kettle (at least 7.5-gallon capacity)
Fermenter with airlock
Grain bag or grain mill
Wort chiller or ice bath
Measuring utensils (spoons, measuring cups)
Hydrometer or refractometer
Racking cane or auto-siphon
Food-grade sanitizer
Bottling bucket
Bottle capper
Beer bottles and caps



1) Heat Water: Fill your brew kettle with about 3.5 gallons of water and heat it to 160-165°F (71-74°C).

2) Steep Grains: Place the crushed malts in a grain bag and steep in the heated water for 30 minutes, maintaining a temperature of 150-160°F (65-71°C).

3) Remove Grains: After 30 minutes, remove the grain bag and let it drain into the kettle. Discard the grains.

4) Boil: Bring the liquid (known as “wort”) to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 oz of East Kent Goldings hops for bittering. Boil for 45 minutes.

5) Flavor Hops and Clarify: Add the remaining 0.5 oz of East Kent Goldings hops and Irish Moss or Whirlfloc tablet (if using) with 15 minutes left in the boil.

6) Cool Wort: After the 60-minute boil is complete, cool the wort quickly using a wort chiller or ice bath.


7) Transfer to Fermenter: Once the wort is cooled to around 65-75°F (18-24°C), transfer it to a sanitized fermenter. Add enough pre-boiled, cooled water to make up 5 gallons.

8) Pitch Yeast: Add (pitch) the Irish Ale yeast into the fermenter.

9) Aerate and Seal: Aerate the wort by sealing the fermenter and shaking it vigorously for a few minutes. Place the airlock.

10) Ferment: Allow the wort to ferment at a temperature of 60-72°F (15-22°C) for 1-2 weeks, or until fermentation activity appears to have stopped (you can confirm with a hydrometer).


11) Prime: Boil the priming sugar in 2 cups of water for a few minutes. Cool and add to a sanitized bottling bucket.

12) Transfer Beer: Siphon the beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket, avoiding transferring any sediment.

13) Bottle: Fill each sanitized bottle with beer, leaving about 1 inch of headspace. Cap the bottles.

14) Carbonate: Allow the beer to carbonate for at least 2 weeks at room temperature.

15) Enjoy: Once carbonation is complete, your Irish Red Ale is ready to be chilled and enjoyed!

Remember that sanitation is crucial at all steps of this process. Happy brewing!

Designing an Irish Red Ale Recipe

The following tips will help you too design your own Irish Red Ale recipe or modify the one we provided…

Essential Ingredients

Malt Selection

When brewing an Irish Red Ale, choosing the correct combination of base and specialty malts is essential. Start with a British malt, such as Maris Otter, as your base. For specialty malts, keep amounts below a pound each. A good choice for this style is Caramel 10-40L. The red hue of the beer comes not only from caramel malts but also from a small dose of highly kilned grain like roasted barley.

Yeast Strain

The choice of yeast is crucial for your Irish Red Ale. Select a yeast strain that complements the malt profile and helps produce the desired flavors. A popular choice is Wyeast Irish Red Ale 1084. This strain enhances the malt character and imparts a smooth, slightly fruity finish to the beer.

Hop Choices

Irish Red Ales are not particularly hop-forward, so the focus should be on balancing the malt-driven flavors. Traditionally, English hops like East Kent Golding are used in this style. Aim for a modest hop addition during the 60-minute boil to achieve a suitable balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness.

Water Chemistry

Water chemistry is an often-overlooked aspect of brewing, but it plays a significant role in the final flavor profile of your beer. It’s essential to ensure your water has a proper balance of minerals to enhance the malt flavors without overshadowing them. You can adjust your water using brewing salts, like calcium chloride and gypsum, to achieve the ideal profile for an Irish Red Ale.

Brewing Process


Begin your Irish Red Ale brewing process by steeping the grains. Opt for a quality Maris Otter base malt and combine it with crystal malts and a small amount of roasted barley. Heat your water to 155°F (68°C) and steep your grains for about 30 minutes. This mashing process will extract the sugars and flavors from the grains, which are essential for the fermentation process later on.


Once you complete the mashing process, remove the grains and dissolve a dry malt extract (DME) or a liquid malt extract (LME) into the resulting wort. Top up with water to reach your desired boil volume. Now you can proceed with boiling, which typically lasts for 60 minutes.

During the boil, you’ll add hops to achieve the best balance of bitterness and aroma in your Irish Red Ale. Add a moderate amount of E.K. Goldings hops at the beginning of the boil (60 minutes) for bitterness, and a smaller portion of the same hops 15 minutes before the end of the boil for aroma.


After boiling, cool the wort down to the appropriate temperature for your chosen yeast strain. Pitch the yeast and seal your fermenter once the wort is down to the recommended temperature. Allow the fermentation process to occur at a temperature suitable for your yeast strain, typically around 65-72°F (18-22°C). Fermentation should last around 1-3 weeks, depending on the specific recipe and yeast activity.

Bottling and Kegging

After fermentation is complete and the Irish Red Ale has reached its final gravity, it’s time for bottling or kegging. For bottling, you’ll need to prime the beer by adding a calculated amount of sugar to the beer before transferring it into bottles. This will provide enough carbonation for a pleasant mouthfeel without over-carbonating. Seal the bottles with caps and let them condition at room temperature for approximately 2 weeks.

If you prefer to keg your Irish Red Ale, transfer the beer into your keg, seal it, and apply CO2 pressure to carbonate the beer. Carbonation levels for an Irish Red Ale should be moderate, so adjust your CO2 pressure and serving pressure accordingly. Once carbonated, you can enjoy your homemade Irish Red Ale. Cheers!

Recipe Variations

When you’re looking to experiment with Irish Red Ale recipes, several variations exist. Each variation will bring out different flavors and characteristics, allowing you to personalize your brew.

One option is to adjust the malt profile. The main malt used in Irish Red Ales is Marris Otter, which contributes to the smooth, drinkable quality of the beer. You may consider using different Pale Ale base malts to alter the flavor subtly. Additionally, experimenting with the percentages of specialty malts, such as Crystal 45 or other caramel malts, can help you find the perfect balance between sweetness, body, and color for your brew.

Another way to put your spin on the recipe is by altering the hop presence. While Irish Red Ales traditionally have a low hop aroma and flavor, feel free to add in a touch of earthy or floral hops. Keep in mind that you still want to maintain the malt-forward characteristic of the style, so use restraint when adding hops. Stick to low-alpha-acid varieties for minimal bitterness, and consider adding them later in the boiling process for a subtle aroma.

You may also experiment with different yeast strains to introduce more complexity into your Irish Red Ale. While many recipes call for a clean fermenting yeast, like Irish Ale yeast or American Ale yeast, you could try using an English yeast strain that produces more esters and accentuates malt flavors. This can add more depth and richness to the beer’s profile.

Additionally, playing with fermentation temperatures can yield interesting results. A higher fermentation temperature could create more fruity esters, while a lower temperature might result in cleaner and crisper flavors. Adjusting the temperature within the yeast’s recommended range can help you find your preferred balance of flavors.

When exploring Irish Red Ale recipe variations, don’t forget to keep track of the changes you’re making, and consider sharing your successful experiments with other homebrewers.

Tasting Notes

When drinking an Irish Red Ale, you will encounter a balanced, easy-drinking pint of beer full of caramel and toasted notes. The deep reddish-copper color comes from a combination of crystal malt and a small dose of highly kilned grain, such as roasted barley.

The mouthfeel of this ale ranges from mid-light to medium. When diacetyl is present, it can cause a rather slippery or smooth mouthfeel. In stronger examples, you may detect a low alcohol warmth. The beer typically has moderate carbonation and attenuation.

Regarding aroma, expect a low to moderate malty scent, with virtually no hop aroma. The Irish Red Ale showcases a low to moderate hop flavor on the palate, contrasted by a more pronounced malty taste. This interplay of flavors creates a well-rounded and enjoyable drinking experience.

As you savor your Irish Red Ale, take note of its distinctive characteristics. Appreciate its color, mouthfeel, aroma, and flavor, which exemplify the unique qualities of this traditional beer style.

Food Pairings

When enjoying an Irish Red Ale, certain foods can enhance the overall experience and bring out the unique flavors of the beer. Here are some food pairings to consider.

A classic option to pair with Irish Red Ale is Shepherd’s Pie. This hearty dish complements the caramel and toffee malt notes found in the ale, providing an ultimate pub meal experience.

Potato and Cheese Soup is another delicious choice that creates a harmonious balance between the soup’s creaminess and the ale’s malty flavors. This combination offers a true taste of Irish comfort food.

Outside of traditional Irish cuisine, Chicken Tikka Masala is a surprisingly satisfying pairing. The robust flavors of this popular dish, with its creaminess and spiciness, work well alongside the ale’s maltiness and subtle bitterness, creating an enjoyable adventure for your taste buds.

Try a grilled cheese sandwich or a Caprese salad for a lighter option. The rich flavors of cheese and the freshness of ripe tomatoes and basil contrast nicely with the toasty and slightly sweet taste of the Irish Red Ale.

When it comes to dessert, opt for something that complements the caramel notes of the ale. Choose a warm apple pie or bread pudding to round out your meal with a delightful sweetness that goes hand in hand with the beer.

Remember, finding a balance that enhances both components is key to an excellent food pairing. The above suggestions are just a starting point for your exploration, so feel free to get creative and discover your own personal favorites. Enjoy your Irish Red Ale with dishes that accentuate its unique flavors, and make every meal a memorable experience.

Storing Recommendations

Proper storage is essential for preserving the taste and quality of your homemade Irish Red Ale. By following these storing recommendations, you can ensure the best drinking experience for you and your guests.

Before bottling or kegging your beer, make sure your storage containers are clean and sanitized. This helps prevent contamination and off-flavors that could impact your beer’s taste and quality.

When choosing a location to store your bottled or kegged beer, look for a dark, cool area that maintains a consistent temperature between 50-55°F (10-13°C). Exposure to light and heat can cause your beer to lose its flavor and possibly spoil.

It’s equally important to store your beer in an upright position, allowing yeast and sediment to settle at the bottom. This will result in clearer, better-tasting beer when it’s time to enjoy it.

Keep track of the batch’s bottling date, as the flavor of Irish Red Ale typically peaks around 2-3 months. While It’s still drinkable beyond this time frame, it may begin to lose some of its distinct characteristics.

Irish Red Ale Recipe FAQs

What is the ideal grain bill for an Irish Red Ale?

For an Irish Red Ale recipe, the grain bill typically consists of a majority of base malt, such as 86% Marris Otter. Specialty malts like Crystal 45 Malt (around 6%) can be added for color and additional flavor notes. The grain bill might also include small amounts of other malts for added depth.

Which hops are commonly used in Irish Red Ale?

Irish Red Ales recipes are not known for their hop presence, so you’ll want to choose a mild hop variety for your brew. Traditional choices include Fuggle, East Kent Golding, or Willamette hops. It is important to keep hop bitterness on the low side to allow the malt flavors to shine through.

Which yeast strains are best suited for brewing an Irish Red Ale?

A good Irish ale yeast is recommended to achieve the desired clean and slightly malty flavor profile. These yeasts should produce low levels of esters and minimal diacetyl. Some popular options include Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale Yeast) and White Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale Yeast).

How does an Irish Red Ale’s flavor profile differ from other red ales?

Irish Red Ales are malt-focused beers with a smooth, easy-drinking character. They feature caramel, toasty, and toffee-like notes. Unlike some other red ales, they are generally low in bitterness and hop aroma. Their cousin, the Scottish Ale, shares many of these characteristics but may have a more malt-forward and subdued hop presence.

Can you suggest a high-quality extract recipe for a Red Ale?

Here’s a simple Irish Red Ale extract recipe to get you started:

6 lbs Light Liquid Malt Extract
8 oz Crystal 45 Malt (steeped)
1 oz Fuggle (bittering, 60 minutes)
1 oz Fuggle (flavor, 15 minutes)
Yeast: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast or White Labs WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast

Follow the standard extract brewing process, making sure to steep the Crystal 45 malt before adding the malt extract.

What are the key differences between an Irish Red Ale and a hoppy Red Ale?

Irish Red Ales are malt-forward, smooth, and easy to drink with a focus on caramel, toasty, and toffee-like flavors. Hoppy Red Ales, on the other hand, emphasize hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. They usually feature American hop varieties, which provide a more intense and assertive bitterness. The malt profile in hoppy Red Ales is typically more balanced and less prominent than in Irish Red Ales.

P.S. Make sure to get your thank-you gift for visiting our blog. The details can be found either on the side or the bottom if you’re using a mobile device.

Leave a Comment

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap