Beer Styles 201: What is an Amber Ale?
At the most basic level an amber ale is a beer that is…red (surprise)! For more information about this beer, including flavour, food pairings, and comparable styles, read on…
By The Beer Community on Mar. 22, 2016
What are Amber, Red Ales or Dark Ales?
Simply put, amber ales are an American version of an English pale ale. They’re called “amber ales” because of the red hue the beer takes on, which comes from the use of caramel & specialty malts added to the beer during the brewing process.
Amber ales are often referred to as an American amber ales, but this beer style is not restricted to the American-only version. There are also Irish, Belgian and English reds ales, and the style is quickly becoming popular around the world including places like Australia and France.
Is amber ale the same as red ale?
Yes, the name is used interchangeably.
Photo of an amber ale
by okcidenta on Instagram
Amber Ale Essential Information:
Popular Regions Known for Red Ales:
North America, Ireland, Belgium
Like the name says, amber ales are generally red to copper in colour, though darker ales will be brown and tend to be more opaque. They have variable clarity and head retention.
Flavour & Aroma:
Amber ales are known for their complex malt character with a fruity undertones which comes from the yeast.
Are amber ales hoppy?
Generally yes, but not always. Amber ales can be hoppy, if the have had hops added during the brewing process. In general red ales will have a pronounced bitterness, but there are exceptions…
Sour or tart red ales: the flanders red ale, AKA the flemish red ale, is a sour style of amber ale. The flavour is bold, sour, and fruity with flavours of black cherries, orange, or red berries being common. If you haven’t tried a flemish red ale, you should – it’s one of the more unique styles of beer and will appeal to wine drinkers more than your classic beer fanatic.
Palate & Mouthfeel:
A light to medium carbonation and weight. Red Ales and Dark Ales have a smooth texture and the complex malt flavours linger on the finish.
What foods pair well with Amber Ales?
The complex malt character and bold flavour of red ales stand up well to red meats & cheese; this also means amber ales are a perfect choice for the BBQ season.
Grilled meats are an obvious choice. Think steak, burgers, sausages, or lamb.
How to serve a Red Ale
In North America, these brews are often served in Shaker pints. In England Nonic pints are more common. They are pretty much your standard beer glasses. If you’d like to be a bit fancy try a Weizen glass which will highlight the beers beautiful colour with its narrow bottom, but still enable you to take big satisfying gulps with its large, round top.
Like Amber ales? You may also like…
Now that you’re an amber ale expert, read more about these other popular beer styles:
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Gruit Ale: what it is, why it’s used, health benefits, and how it is regulated is all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
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