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Irish Red -- Where Did I Go Wrong?

I was hoping I could get some advice on where I went wrong with my last beer recipe. I was trying to make an Irish red ale (5-gal. batch), but instead I got something rather else. It was far too dark and too bitter. I was rather disappointed, until a friend suggested I call it an “Irish bitter,” so hey, I accidentally invented a beer. :roll:

Anyway, here’s the recipe:


6 lbs. Maris Otter liquid malt extract
1 lb. English Medium Crystal (60 SRM)
8 oz. toasted malt (27 SRM)
2 oz. roasted barley (300 SRM)

0.75 oz. Target hops (60 min)
0.75 oz. Fuggles (10 min)
0.75 oz. East Kent Goldings (1 min)

0.5 tsp. Irish moss
Irish Ale Yeast (White Labs #WLP004)


Using Beersmith, this had an estimated OG of 1.046 and FG of 1.010; the actual numbers were 1.045 and 1.013, so apparently I did something right. Again according to Beersmith, the beer should have had a nice medium red color, estimated at 14.7 SRM. I have no idea what the actual numbers are, but it’s a dark brown with a reddish tint to it. And while Beersmith puts the estimated bitterness right in the middle of the Irish red’s range, 23.8 IBU, it tastes much too bitter to me. (Though for all I know the estimated number is accurate, because I make no claim to being able to guess at an IBU measurement.)

Next time I try this, I’d really like to hit the mark I was aiming for. So I’d be most grateful for any advice or suggestions.

My first thoughts are: Sometimes a guy will immediately taste their freshly kegged beer and think it sucks as it’s too bitter or got a “whang.” It’'s usually just the yeast sediment/in suspension you are tasting. Give it a week minimum before judging its flavor. As to the color, well, the same thing applies–mabbe the yeast is darkening it up a little as it may still be in suspension. Added to that Maybe you boiled it harder or longer than the recipe intended. It’s easy to over-darken extract beers

Using my StrangeBrew software, first I had to assume that your volume ended up really high at like 5.75 gallons to get the gravity down to where you stated. At that point, the IBUs are still 35 to 40, which is way too high for the style. Color looks good by the calculator, so I wonder where you got this “toasted malt”? I’ve never seen that commercially available before. Did you make your own? If so, how did you make it? If it was overly toasted, then this explains the overly roasted flavors in the beer, and the darker color. If the toasted malt had truly been done right, then the color should be around 12 SRM.

Lots of variables so it’s difficult to say exactly which one(s) are causing the problems. But I’m pretty sure that you used way too much hops.

Red is a difficult color to get from malt, and most “red” beer recipes end up more brown to my eye. One thing I’ve found is that certain crystal malts seem to be better at providing red than roasted malts. Special B is good for this, as is CaraRed.

Seems like it’s a bit over hopped. I use .5 to bitter and .75 at 30 before FO in my red ale.

As to the color…well…it’s extract right?

[quote=“dmtaylo2”]Using my StrangeBrew software, first I had to assume that your volume ended up really high at like 5.75 gallons to get the gravity down to where you stated. At that point, the IBUs are still 35 to 40, which is way too high for the style. Color looks good by the calculator, so I wonder where you got this “toasted malt”? I’ve never seen that commercially available before. Did you make your own? If so, how did you make it? If it was overly toasted, then this explains the overly roasted flavors in the beer, and the darker color. If the toasted malt had truly been done right, then the color should be around 12 SRM.

Lots of variables so it’s difficult to say exactly which one(s) are causing the problems. But I’m pretty sure that you used way too much hops.[/quote]

This was an extract beer, so there was a good deal less than 5 gallons going into the fermenter, brought up to the five-gallon line on the bucket (which I’ve tested, and found to be accurate) with cold water. I’m not sure why your software and mine have such different calculations for the specific gravity, or why my software more or less matched my actual reading of the hydrometer. (I’m perfectly willing to accept that the mistake is mine, though.) I made the toasted malt myself, following instructions in the Complete Joy of Homebrewing. As I recall, it spent about ten minutes in a 350-degree oven.

As for the bitterness, I don’t know whether the software is glitched, or the information on the bag of hops is wrong, but it tells me 23.8 IBU. I definitely agree with you, though, it tastes far too bitter. Other than that, it’s a good beer – just not an Irish red ale.

+1
I’ve used NB’s MO Malt syrup in a few recipes, and everything they say about extracts resulting in too dark beer seems to apply double. The beers are tasty, but dark, and tend toward more rusty, brown-red than red.

It’s actually wanting a pretty red that started me on the path from pure extract into PM and AG brewing.

What about adding the extract late in the boil? I’ve heard that’s supposed to help with the color. I’m sure I’ll get to all-grain brewing at some point, but at the moment I’m trying to keep the operation small, simple, and easy.

It will probably help some. Also be sure you turn off the burner or remove the kettle from the burner and stir the extract in well before returning the heat. That will help avoid scorching the extract which can darken the wort and add off flavors.

If you want to keep things simple and brew all grain check out BIAB (Brew in a Bag) AG brewing. All you really need to add to your setup is a nylon mesh bag and you’re good to go. Then you’ll have a lot more control of your final product.

OK, I’ll either give that a try, or make an Irish red my first BIAB experiment. Thanks for the advice!

I also agree with my friend. :cheers:

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