The “India Red Ale” style seems to be on the rise of late, characterized by the marriage of the Northwest “Red” Ale with the IPA into a beer with a malty-roasty body and IPA-like hop characteristics (of course this is my own fast and loose definition), and McMenamins is stepping onto the field with their new winter seasonal, Red Riser IRA.
My local McMenamins here in Bend, the Old St. Francis School, got in touch with me to offer up a complementary growler of the beer (since it’s not being bottled, samples can’t be sent out in the usual method), to which I happily accepted. This beer is brand new; it’s officially released tomorrow, January 4, and right now is super fresh. Here’s the McMenamins description:
To celebrate the late winter months, McMenamins brewers have handcrafted a delightful India Red Ale, a beer style that is characterized by a deep garnet hue, a rich, malty mouthfeel and the hop character of an IPA. Red Riser IRA is a perfect example of this hearty modern ale style and is the first in a new series of seasonal beers that McMenamins will be rolling out in 2013 as we expand, evolve and enhance our Seasonal Beer Program.
At the time of year when it can be cold and bleak outside, Red Riser IRA peeks over the mountain tops to bring warmth and remind us that spring is just around the corner. While waiting for spring to arrive, Red Riser IRA will warm your soul and invigorate your tastebuds. Made from the finest malted barley, along with some rye malt (six different malts in total), this red giant is generously hopped with a heavenly blend of aromatic hop varieties (four different hop varieties). The glorious garnet hue illuminates the way to a wonderfully complex blend of malt flavors. The citrusy floral hop notes hit the nose in a prophetic burst of awareness that something wonderful is to follow. And it does.
It’s 7.1% alcohol by volume and 98 IBUs; and if you look at their ingredients list, you’ll see something which tickled my beer geek fancy: first wort hopping! I don’t recall seeing this on a McMenamins beer before (though of course I haven’t looked at every available beer page on their site) so it definitely caught my eye. (“First wort” is adding hops to the wort immediately as it’s drawn off the mash, even before striking the boil—it’s yet another way to add hop character to a beer, though 95% of the time you only ever see told of “bittering” and “aroma” or “flavor” hopping.)
Appearance: Muddy reddish-brown color with a light tan head (there’s not too much carbonation from the growler).
Smell: Fresh and floral, with a touch of juicy citrus and an undercurrent of resiny green hops.
Taste: Luscious bready malt with a nice roasty note that’s flavorful without being astringent; a mild thread of caramel runs through it and it has a clean, crisp hop bitterness that’s pungent and strong but is well-balanced with the roasty “red” malts. It finishes bright and floral with a hint of vegetal hop note.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a nice smooth presence on the tongue.
Overall: Nice and tasty and very fresh; the low-carbed growler gives a hint as to how it would be on cask (really good!). It’s a winner and one I’d be happy to drink again. (In fact I will as I finish the growler!)
Red Riser IRA on Untappd. (And as of this writing, it’s not on either BeerAdvocate or RateBeer yet.)