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A Mostly True Story: Homebrewing Wood Chipper Irish Red Ale

BYOB by | Dec 2016 | Issue #119
Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

Earlier this year I took a bugbeater plane to Fargo, N.D., to attend the Prairie Homebrew Companions’ annual Hoppy Halloween Competition. In addition to being a fun contest with skits, costumes, and decorated bottles (in a special category, mind you), I found myself reminded why it’s important to get away from your usual haunts.

It’s tempting to think regionalism has been homogenized out of existence, but a little trip can remind you that things do look different in other places. From my West Coast perch, the world seems dominated by IPAs and Saisons. In Fargo, I was reminded of flavors that I rarely see anymore—namely malt. I kept running into malt-forward beers like Irish Red Ales, a style I didn’t realize I missed.

My first introduction to the style (so to speak) was ages ago with Coors’ Killian’s Irish Red, which is as dubiously Irish as those “Pub in a Box” Irish bars. The true style is a bit confused between the export versions we see in the US and domestic Irish examples. Too often our copies of the style are super sweet crystal bombs, while the Irish versions are variations on Bitters.

This take involves a bunch of pale malt, a restrained bit of crystal, and a smidge of roasted barley for more brilliant color. You could use Red-X or Sacchra-50 for a modern “blood red” beer, but I think you’ll miss the roundness from the crystal.

Wood Chipper Irish Red
For 5.5 gallons at 1.049 OG | 22 IBU | 15.2 SRM | 4.9% ABV

Malt
9.5 lbs pale malt
0.5 lbs medium British crystal malt
0.25 lbs roasted barley

Mash
Rest at 152°F for 60 minutes.

Hops (Pellets)
0.5 oz Target | 11% AA | 60 minutes
0.5 oz Bramling Cross | 6% AA | 0 minutes

Yeast
Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale, WLP004 Irish Ale, or your favorite low-ester ale strain.