Ah February, while it may officially be spring, it seems we get all seasons at once. Well now is the perfect time to rediscover red ales. Red ales are such versatile all-rounders that suit all weather conditions while pairing well with a wide range of foods. Classic matches are mild fruity or tangy cheeses to hearty meals like wild game, winter vegetables or the ubiquitous family favourite Shepherd’s Pie. Desserts aren’t off the menu either, pairing well with creamy desserts that aren’t too sweet.
The emphasis is, naturally, on the malt for red ales. Made with a portion of caramel or speciality malts bringing that red colour and smooth fruity, caramelly flavour profile while the addition of some roasted grains can lend a toasty character. But within the broader red ale family there are variations and some that break away from tradition. Below are just a few available in O’Briens.
First up, Costellos The Red is a very sessionable approach to a red ale with a low abv of just 3.8% but don’t let its easy drinking character and low alcohol fool you. This is a seriously well put together beer with a superbly balanced malt character and the dry refreshing finish that embodies the Irish Red style. Works great with pork dishes or mildly spicy pizzas.
Another take on the Irish red, Pagans Pillar, comes from the Boyne Brewhouse. This brings smooth caramel together with some toasty character overlaid with soft spicy hops and a touch of orange peel. The livelier carbonation here makes this great for cutting through barbeque, if you are feeling brave about the weather, but also works great with cheese salads. You can pick this up along with the rest of the Boyne core range at 4 for €10 this month.
O Brother The Fixer shifts over to what some would describe as an ‘American Amber’ with a more upfront hop character. Expect a touch of sweetness and smooth caramel along with a hint of red fruit from the malt. The hops bring a resinous bite, some citrus and caramelised orange along with a refreshing bitterness to the finish. Great with mature cheddar, burgers or medium spicy Mexican dishes. The core O Brother beers are in a mix and match deal this month at 3 for €10 in O’Briens.
Finally, the Dot Brew Red Trilogy is a unique opportunity to experience the effects of barrel aging red ale. What you have is three beers with the first a lively red ale with subtle American hops over smooth caramel. This beer was then aged in Irish whiskey barrels, while aging one of the casks was judged to have an incredible natural balance of malt character and rich oak aging, so was bottled separately. The remaining barrels were, as originally intended, back blended with the original unaged red to soften out the oak character for an approachable yet rich character.