The red ale was actually one of the first craft brew styles in the US, and it allowed brewers to try something different without being too difficult to master. Red can encompass a broad spectrum of hues in everyday life, but in the beer world the term refers to countless varieties of flavors and colors ranging from pale straw color to amber, with heavy caramel maltiness to a hoppier flavor.
The red color of the beer comes from the specific concentration and roast type of the malted grains in the brewer’s recipe; the more roasted and higher concentration, the darker the red. Depending on the clarity, the beer can attain a beautiful deep red color that is highly prized in the brewing community. Reds are often called ambers ales, again because of their color, and for lack of a better description for brews not traditionally recognized by any other discriminating factors (like the hoppiness of an IPA, the banana flavor of a Bavarian Hefeweizen, etc.)
Probably because it was one of the original craft brew styles, it is rare to find a brewery or brewpub that doesn’t offer an amber or red ale staple on tap. Today the broad color and flavor range allows creativity and fun infusion into the red. Whether spiced, hopped, imperialized, or exotically yeasted, red is a favorite of craft brewers and beer aficionados alike.
Some great Orange County-brewed reds to try are the Claim Jumper Original Red, Oggi’s Sunset Amber Ale, Backstreet Brewery’s Rita Red Ale, Karl Strauss’s Red Trolley Ale, and Pizza Port’s Sharkbite Red.