Red coloured beers are one of the most troublesome colours to nail when brewing. When done right they come out a brilliant ruby red that just shines in the glass. There are a few key elements we have found here at the Gladfield pilot brewery when developing malt bills for red ales that make hitting that colour a little easier.
1. Target a colour between 32 and 37 EBC. We have found this to be the sweet spot for hitting that ruby colour. Too light and you beer will be brown, to dark and your beer will be darker brown.
2. Malt choice is a big one, but will also be dependent on what flavours you want in the final beer. Below are the three big hitters for getting the right red colour.
a. Aurora – A base malt, Brings in great malty and light fruity flavours and a beautiful red hue. It can be used up to 100% of the grist for red / amber ale.
b. Red back – A less modified crystal malt with a beautiful red colour. This also brings in some lighter malty and sweet flavours along with enhanced body and head retention. Use up to 20%
c. Shepherds Delight – The darkest of the red malts – The most bang for your buck as a little bit goes a long way in achieving colour and flavour. Pairs very well with Vienna for the enhanced sweetness or some of our darker crystal malts. Use at 8-10% Maximum. This malt can impart an astringent flavour initially but it mellows out after a few weeks.
3. Serve the beer in the glass that shows it off the best. Often the red colour will only truly come out in the right glass or lighting conditions. So use that to your advantage. If a beer is a brilliant ruby red in a pilsner glass pouring it into a traditional pint glass could make it appear orange-brown. Try a few options and stick with the best. Sunlight always seems to show off the red better than indoor lighting. It is summer time so lounge out on the patio and drink those red beers in the sun!
4. Don’t give up on the first go. Brewing is an art and a science and it takes persistence on both fronts to craft a perfect beer. Brew often, drink the mistakes and tweak the recipes to perfection.
Below are some of our favourite red ale recipes that cater to different styles of beers. Some are more malt forward where others push into the hoppier categories without losing that great red hue. All recipes to make 25 litres.
2.5kg Gladfield Ale Malt (36.8%)
2.0kg Vienna Malt (29.4%)
1.4kg Aurora Malt (20.6%)
0.55kg Red Back Malt (8.1%)
0.35kg Shepherds Delight Malt (5.1%)
60min – 20g Pacific Gem
15min – 15g Pacifica
5min – 15g Pacifica
Target Original Gravity 1.061
Estimated ABV 6.2%
Target IBU 25
Mash at 67°C
3.94kg American Ale Malt (60.6%)
1.31kg Vienna Malt (20.2%)
0.26kg Toffee Malt (4%)
0.46kg Red Back Malt (7.1%)
0.53kg Shepherds Delight Malt (8.1%)
60min – 32g Pacific Jade
15min – 20g NZ Cascade
0min – 25g Pacifica and 15g NZ Cascade
Target Original Gravity 1.060
Estimated ABV 6.1%
Target IBU 40+
Mash at 65°C
Smoked Red Ale
2.79kg American Ale Malt (45%)
1.55kg Manuka Smoked Malt (25%)
1.12kg Aurora Malt (18%)
0.37kg RedBack Malt (6%)
0.37kg Shepherds Delight Malt (6%)
60min – 10g Pacific Gem
15min – 10g Pacific Gem
1min – 15gSouthern Cross
Target Original Gravity 1.055
Estimated ABV 5.6%
Target IBU 37
Mash at 67°C
Written by Caleb DeFrees – Gladfield Malt Production Manager and Gladfield Pilot Brewery guru