Red in the face

PhotobucketBreweries both north and south of the border here seem to have a core range which consists of three styles, a blonde (read: lager), a (dry) stout and that ubiquitous Irish style: a red ale. I've never really been that taken by them, often being a little too caramel malty and not much else, all very samey.

I decided to put that to the test by doing a comparative tasting of some of the better Irish brewers

Four Shades of Red

Carlow O'Hara's Irish Red (4.3%)
dark auburn with watermelon and green apple.
Acetaldehyde, medium bodied, solvent, caramalt and green apple.
Not nice - tipped it away.

light chestnut with slight white head formation.
Sweet caramel and herbal nose.
Astringent, sweet, thin, medium carbonation, papery.

Medium bodied, chocolate, caramel, touch of astringency,
cocoa and toffee in finish.
8 Degrees Sunburnt Irish Red (5%)
Spicey cardamom and caramel. Garnet red with minimal lacing.
Very low carbonation, sweet, caramalt.
Promising start but dull finish.

Clanconnel McGraths Irish Red (4.3%)
Alcoholic musty, dried fruits on the nose. Fairly dry with light carbonation, candy sugar, shortcake, custard with astringent yet sweet finish.

As you can see from my tasting notes, they're all pretty dull with some being downright nasty. Why do they persist with something so dull. To all Irish brewers please stop using so much caramalt and be more inventive with your hopping instead. Thanks!


  1. Absolutely, over zealous caramalt use does my nut in at the best of times, but in terms of Irish reds it really is beyond a joke. At least the 8 Degrees lads are a bit inventive with their hopping; on cask (in good nick)you can really get some of the interesting floral and light tropical stuff from the antipodean hops, although unfortunately that's never really translated into their bottled range.

    1. good to know, I'll look out for it on draught next time I'm down

  2. Generally agree w.r.t. red beer....I don't get it. I never think the carbonation helps - everyone I have had seems a bit thin and fizzy. There was a beer called 'Red McGregor' that I had at a few beer fests that was okish, but i am sure it was stronger than the 4% it now appears to be in bottled form.

  3. yes, according to ratebeer bottled orkney red macgregor used to be 5% but cask has always been around 4%. Can't remember if I've tried it or not but its available in most supermarkets north of the border and has always been unappealing

  4. They tend to be avoided by me if they are on, though I sometimes pick up an O'Hara's red. It sounds like you had a bad bottle, I have never come across a bad bottle of O'Hara's either, maybe it's just me.
    Copper Coast is good on cask but still boring.
    They are made because they are expected and there are a lot of Smithwicks drinkers out there waiting to be converted. In fact at the Abbelyleix beer fest, Smithwicks is the regular tipple of the local farmer types and they really took to the White Gypsy red that was put on. Drank them dry with a little help from the homebrewers there for the competition.

    They are also expected styles from the larger export breweries like Carlow and Porterhouse, especially in the American market. You don't have to like them as long as you accept they will be brewed for those that want to drink them.

    1. I suppose I should be thankful that there's still a mass market for a beer style other than lager or stout here, but I wish breweries would be a bit more inventive!

  5. I'm still waiting for an imperial IPA to be made on this Island.

    Come on Porterhouse... Double hop head please.