How To Brew Red Ale | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: March 4, 2021

Red IPA is a hoppy, bitter, and moderately strong beer, much like an American IPA. How it stands out from the everyday run-of-the-mill IPA by the toffee and/or dark fruit that is carried by the malt.

With a dry finish and immense drinkability, the Red IPA is flavor-filled while being malt forward without being sweet or heavy. 

An American Beer

The Red IPA is one of the newer sub-styles in the BJCP American IPA style category. Many American beer styles are imitations or versions of beers brewed in Germany, England, or other countries.

However, the Red IPA is pretty American. This style lends itself to being very closely related to the American Amber Ale with more hoppiness, increased malt bill and a slight change in the alcohol range.  

Does Color Matter?

In the world of beer, how the beer looks can make or break a style. With a color range between 11 to 19 SRMs, the Red IPA certainly has color.

The reddish hue is thanks in large part to the Carafa Special I that is added to most Red IPA recipes. This will achieve the desired color, but give off very little roast character.  

Style Profile for Red IPA

Appearance

Red IPA will range from a light reddish amber to a dark ruby or reddish copper. Clarity should be clear, unless the beer is dry hopped, then haze will appear.

Head color is creamy white to light to cream and should be medium in size with good retention. 

Aroma

The aroma of a Red IPA will consist of some maly sweet, rather nutty, dark caramel, toasty bread, toffee and hints of dark fruit. The malt aroma should be complementary to the hop aromas.

Hop aroma ranges from medium to strong. Notes of berry, melon, spice, pine, resinous, fruit, citrus, tropical and/or stone fruit are possibilities. A bit of alcohol heat can become noticeable with stronger versions. 

Flavor

Clean, but sweet malt at the front of the palate with dark caramel, toffee, toasted bread, and/or dark fruit. Should not have roasted, burnt, or harsh bitterness. Hop flavors can range from moderate to high.

Usually American or New World hops, with flavors of berry, stone fruit, pine, floral, melon, spicy, citrus, tropical fruit being common. The beer should finish dry to medium with some residual sweetness. Some hop flavor and bitterness may be present in the aftertaste.

Some fruitiness can arrive from the yeast. Residual sweetness is medium-low to none with a dry finish. Hop flavors and bitterness may linger but should never be considered harsh.  

Mouthfeel

Smooth texture with medium to moderately high carbonation and medium-light to medium body. Hop astringency should not be harsh. 

Food Pairing

A good Red IPA can pair well with French onion soup, tomato soup, or pasta salad. Spicy foods such as Indian, Asian, or Mexican can all pair nicely. The old favorites such as a BLT, burgers, or pizzas always pair wonderfully here.

BBQ ribs, grilled meats and hearty roasts can be a great pairing as well. Cheese such as blue, smoked gouda, sharp aged cheddar, aged Chevre, or Parmigiano-Reggiano can all be great companions to a Red IPA.

Desserts that consist of spice cakes, vanilla or maple syrup, or even oatmeal raisin cookies all pair nicely here too. 

Tips for Brewing your own Red IPA

Grain

Domestic 2-Row or pale ale malt are usually the base malts for Red Ales. A half pound each of Crystal 40 and 120 will give off that great toffee and toast flavors.

A quarter pound of Carafa Special I, a dehusked malt, can give the color a Red IPA needs but without the roast character. 

Hops

American hops really should be showcased in this beer. A traditional bittering charge at 60 minutes is a nice place to start with your hop schedule. Something like Chinook or Simcoe will give the beer a nice bitterness.

After bittering hops, the sky’s the limit with how much or little hops you want to add. Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo is always a good way to start when thinking about the hop schedule. If adding rye to the grain bill, Mosaic makes for a decent choice. 

Hopping with New World hops like Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin or any of your favorite hops from New Zealand or Australia will work here too. Dry hopping is very common with the style and encouraged to extract more hop aroma and flavor in your beer. 

Yeast

A clean fermenting American yeast is encouraged for American IPAs. Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale WLP001 are two popular strains.

Imperial Yeast also offers A15 Independence, A07 Flagship, and A18 Joystick. Safale US-05 is also the dry yeast strain to be considered.

Red IPA the By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 11 – 19 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.056 – 1.070 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.016 FG
  • IBU Range: 40 – 70
  • ABV Range: 5.5 – 7.5%

Martin Keen’s Red IPA Recipe

Grain

  • 73 %            9 lbs          Maris Otter    
  • 17 %            2 lbs          Vienna Malt
  •   8 %            1 lb            Caramunich II
  •   2 %            .25 lb         Carafa Special I

Hops

  • 1.00 oz         Simcoe – Boil 60 min
  • 1.00 oz         Cascade – Boil – 5 min
  • 1.00 oz         Centennial – Boil 5 min
  • 1.00 oz         Simcoe – Boil   5 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg   Ringwood Ale Wyeast #1187

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins 

Transcript: Today it is Red IPA, but I’m not brewing this one.

Hi, and welcome to Lauren’s takeover of Martin’s Homebrew challenge where he’s brewing 99 beers in 99 weeks.

Let’s make that 98 cause I’m brewing this one and today we are making our red IPA.

Today we’re going to be brewing a two and a half gallon batch. So we’re going to start with four gallons of water and let’s get started. All right.

So I’m going to start with two grams of gypsum and measure it out to perfectly, awesome. Then I’m going to do three grams of salt and then five grams of calcium chloride. All right. And now I’m going to go ahead and dump it in. All right. And next I’m going to add two milliliters of lactic acid to balance the pH.

What is an IPA?

So we all know what an IPA is today. Ah, stands for India pale ale. Um, a lot of people don’t know where actually originated from. So IPA actually originated in England. Um, when they were ruling over the East, they had to come up with a beer that could travel from Britain to India. It was too hot to actually brew over there.

So around 1780, the guy Hodgson jumped at the opportunity to make a beer, to see if it would travel. Well, it turns out it did, um, the six month grueling trip from Britain to India and they loved it. Americans actually started to recreate other, uh, different English beers.

So it’s kind of weird to think and funny to think of an IPA was made from Britain to go to India, to come back to Britain, to be made popular again in America. Kind of cool.

Lauren

So I went ahead and I added my ingredients. I’m going to do my math 152 degrees Fahrenheit. And I’m going to come back in about an hour and check and see how it’s doing.

So not to toot my own horn, but I am the skill behind the thumbnail. Uh, so I just wanted to kind of show you how I personally pour my beers, um, for the videos that Martin does.

People pour differently, but this is what works for me with these taps. Uh, usually I will take my glass. I don’t personally like chilled glasses, but that’s just my preference. I will hold it at a 45 degree angle, and one thing you really want to do when you’re pouring a beer is commit to pulling on the handle. If you don’t, it’s not going to have enough air flow coming through and then you get a lot of foam and head on your beer.

So let’s see if this works. And about halfway three quarters, I like to just straighten it up a little bit, um, just so that you can get that really good head on the beer and then we just want to close it off.

Pretty good beer I’d say, I’m gonna drink it.

Okay. So the red IPA we’re making is, um, it’s kind of a new sort of beer it’s actually says here that it’s one of the newest sub styles to come out of the American IPA category. I previously said before that, uh, one of my favorite beers Martin’s brewed so far is the Irish red ale.

When I saw that it was a red IPA, I really jumped at the opportunity to help with this one because I’m curious to see, uh, how it will compare, um, with like the hop profile and the maltiness with the red Irish ale.

So for this beer, I used four different malts with Maris Otter being my base malt. Um, the other three would be Vienna Malt, Caramunich II, and Carage special I. I did my mash at 152 Fahrenheit, and now I’m going to go ahead and do my mash out at 168F.

Mash out for about 10 minutes at 168. Uh, now I’m going to go ahead and remove the grains. Um, I’m going to get a little bit of help right now, cause I don’t really trust myself.

Well, I’m glad I could be of some service Lauren. Thank you.

I went ahead and I pre-measured out my hops. Um, so what I’m going to be doing is at the start of the boil. I’m going to add in my Simco and then five minutes before it’s done, I’m going to add the remaining Simco, some Centennial as well as some cascade hops.

After I was done with the boil, I went ahead and chilled my wort. I also added my yeast. I’m using Ringwood ale 1187, and I’m going to go ahead and put my stopper in here and we are going to ferment at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

See you at the tasting.

Hey. All right. So here’s our red IPA and I’m very excited to try it. Um, it was a lot of fun helping brew this. So I want to see if my hard work paid off. Helping brew it?. You did the whole thing. Okay. I did. I did the whole thing. Yeah.

Well thank you for inviting me to the tasting. Cause I’m also extremely excited to see how this one turns out. So, um, let’s look at the appearance of it first. Yeah. So just when you brought it in, it’s look like it’s really dark but dark, but when you actually hold it up to the light, I think there is a good amount of color in here. Yeah. I agree.

When I was pouring it, I was like, wow, I thought this was going to be more red. Um, but once you do put up to the light, it’s a very, very like a deep copper I’d say, or like a dark Crimson.

So now let’s check out the aroma. Well, I’m getting a little bit of the fruitiness of the hops and also a little bit of the, the, uh, sort of darker malt bill I can smell. I think it smells quite light on the multi-site honestly. Um, the hops is more overpowering on it, but there is a little toasty smell to it, but it’s not too crazy.

It smells like beer that, I would really liked to drink. Well, you’re in luck. All right, let’s try it. Okay. So, um, my opinion is that it tastes really good. Uh, but I can definitely taste that it’s kind of like we talked about the hybrid sort of beer.

I definitely can taste like IPA notes in it, but then it’s kind of like mixed with like, what’s that one I’m thinking of like a Red Ale. Right?

I absolutely agree. You’ve you’ve got two things going on in here. You’ve clearly got that sort of malty tastes from the red ale that we had before that we like sort of a soft malty taste, I think. And then, um, there’s no doubt about it.

There is a good amount of hop character in this beer as well. So it really is a balancing of, of two things that sort of the maltiness of the, the red and then the, the hoppy aromas and the tastes are pretty light. This one.

Well again, thank you for having me. Uh, if you wanna make this at home, you can go ahead and, and get the recipe kit at Atlantic brew supply store and the recipe will be down below in the description and on that note, cheers!

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.