There is a narrow window for achieving that distinctly “red” appearance and deep ruby hue. A few shades too light and the beer appears more copper or amber; too dark and it looks brown. And achieving that apparent red colour without an overly malty, cloying finish requires judicious use of specialty malts. Clarity is another critical aspect of brewing beers that showcase their true colours, so other factors like your yeast choice, hopping rates, mash regime, and your finings are important to optimise if you don’t want murky beer.
Red Beer styles are often not as Malt-forward as they appear. Some styles like Red IPAs or Dry Irish Red Ales call for restrained malt character and a dry finish, so the brewer must carefully balance the corresponding ‘malt’ character that many colour-imparting specialty malts will add.
Choosing a Grain Bill:
Looking past the colour, different beers require different malt qualities and intensities. Dry Irish Red Ale’s will require a different grist composition from say an Imperial Red IPA. Understanding Gladfield’s Specialty Red malts and their ballpark usage rates should help you to build a malt base that looks Red, and smells and tastes appropriate to style. Here we recommend usage rates for each malt. If you are layering several of them together, keep in mind the colour range for blatantly “Red” is ~30-36EBC (15-18 SRM).
Gladfield Aurora Malt:
Aurora produces rich bready, fruit cake aromas and imparts an orange/red colour to the brew. If you want to make that big malty, robust beer, then this is a great malt to use. Specially developed as a flavour and colour imparting base malt, it can be used upwards of 50% of the grist. For balanced, Dry Red Ale styles (i.e., American Amber, Red IPA, or Irish Red), we suggest pairing it with American Ale, Munich, or Pilsner Malts to temper its flavour and aroma, but not its colour contribution. RedBack and Shepherds Delight malts bring out the red colours of Aurora, intensify colour, and add complexity to the malt flavours in the finished beer.
- Usage rate: Up to 100% of the grist; (Aim for 5-20% of the total grist for Red Ales)
Gladfield RedBack Malt:
Prepared using a special process before going into the roaster, and then roasted until Maillard reactions occur. RedBack Malt offers “dried fruit” and “toasted” flavours to the finished beer, in addition to the rich red colour it can impart. Body and head retention are also improved due to the lower modification level and saccharification during roasting, making it a great substitute for traditional Crystal Malts.
- Usage rate: Rates between 5-15% of the grist are advisable (this depends on other specialty malts used).
Gladfield Shepherd’s Delight:
We developed this malt especially for brewing Red Ales. Think of it like a Super-Aurora; Rich and Intense, with more depth to its aroma and flavour, and “red” colour contribution. A little bit goes a long way in achieving colour and flavour.
- Usage rate: Between 4 – 6% is the optimum percentage, and we don’t recommend exceeding 10% with this malt to avoid potential astringency.
Gladfield Black Forrest Rye:
This is our Rye based rendition of Shepherds Delight Malt. Same attributes that Shepherd’s Delight Malt offer (red colour, malty, currant and fruit cake flavours) with the added peppery, dry finish of Rye. There’s plenty of scope here to impart subtle spiciness, complexity, and achieve a potentially drier finish. No one else in the world produces this specialty malt, so Black Forrest Rye is exclusive to Gladfield. *Seasonal release, every April we have a fresh batch.
- Usage rate: As with Shepard’s Delight we recommend between 4 – 6% is the optimum percentage. As this and Shepard’s Delight are quite similar be careful not to exceed 10% f the total grist. The same rule applies of combining them.
Clearly better beers…
Red Beers are clear beers. Achieving exceptional levels of clarity is crucial to allowing any rouge highlights to shine through in the glass. Applying the right kettle and auxiliary finings, at rates tailored to a particular beer, will best protect against opacity and a muddy appearance in the final beer.
The overall strategy is to reduce the levels of yeast cells, and the ‘building blocks’ of haze (proteins and polyphenols). Maximising clarity starts even before the brewhouse with the selection of your malt, yeast, and hops:
• High nitrogen and polyphenol levels will inevitably produce beers that are difficult to clear and potentially throw hazes, in package.
• Complete mash conversion is necessary. Residual starch testing is par for the course in preventing starch hazes. Starch-based hazes both will ruin beer clarity and provide a potential food source for Wild Yeast to grow in packaged beer.
• Wheat and Oats impart higher levels of protein to the wort which will induce turbidity (no wonder they feature readily in Hazy malt bills).
• Yeast choice is a simple way to optimise clarity and yield. Aside from Flavour contribution and Attenuation level, flocculation characteristics should be high on your list of ideal qualities.
• Hops play a significant role in haze formation as they contribute high levels of polyphenols, which complex with these proteins during fermentation and conditioning, creating haze.
Notes on Finings…
You need protein and polyphenols present for haze formation, so you don’t have to remove everything to prevent haze. By reducing the levels of one or both sufficiently through proper mashing, boiling, kettle and/or auxiliary finings you can achieve a bright clarity, in many cases without filtration. Finings target oppositely charges species in wort and beer.
Kettle finings: Protafloc and Koppakleer contain the seaweed-derived protein Carrageenan. At wort pH ranges, this is negatively charged and forms complexes (kettle trub) with positively charged haze-causing proteins.
Several factors impact the efficacy of kettle finings; dosage rate is the most important. Beers differ in their composition, malt lines change, and so too do their protein and polyphenol contributions. As such, it is important to regularly optimise your dosage rates. Over or under-dosing can negatively impact clarity, impact brewhouse yields, and waste money. A 10min benchtop assay with several wort samples (taken during the boil), and a range of finings rates applied, should provide a clear visual indication of the optimal dosage rate to use. Learn how to optimise Super F here
Tank Finings: Hydro-silica Gels like Super F adsorb soluble hydrophilic (a technical name for water-loving) proteins. These proteins are well dissolved in beer but are more chemically attracted to the silica gel. Super F is also suitable for vegan beers.
Auxiliary finings: like Alginex are designed for use in conjunction with isinglass finings. It is supplied as a concentrate and must be diluted (in beer or deaerated water) at a ratio of 3.5ml per Litre, before adding to the beer. Most beers will require an addition of auxiliary finings at a rate between 100ml per hl to 500ml per hl. Auxiliary finings are negatively charged and will bind with positively charged proteins in beer, and are commonly used in a staged approach in combination with collagen-based finings like Isinglass or Gelatine. To avoid potential interactions the Auxiliary finings should be added before the Isinglass or Gelatine and allowed to bind proteins and not the Collagen. Please note Collagen-based finings like Isinglass and Gelatine are animal-derived and not suitable for vegan beers.
Both these agents will drop out of solution during cold maturation but are typically added prior to or inline at filtration to ensure completely removal. As with kettle finings, it is highly recommended that you conduct a finings optimisation trial on small volumes of your green beer before you fine the whole volume.