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I'm looking for new beers to try and have a great liking for a variety of Red Ales. Some of my favourite "big" brews are Yuengling and Dos Equis. I also really like a local brew Walkerville Honest Lager. Rickards Red is also decent, but not quite "perfect".

Interested in any suggestions for other beers I could try with a similar taste!

In addition, what is the characteristic taste, or, what are some words that describe the taste, that makes a lager a red lager?

  • I had to read your post a few times to try to understand what you're asking. (Your title is about red lagers, but you start by mentioning red ales, then generic lagers, then IPAs, browns, and stouts, and your final question appears to be about all beer, in general.) Let me try to distill a singular question here, to help others: What is the characteristic taste, or, what are some words that describe the taste, that makes a lager a red lager? – Andrew Cheong Mar 10 '15 at 21:34
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    You're right @AndrewCheong, I started just wanting to know what other beers I could try, but as I was writing the question I started trying to ask too much at once. I've simplified my secondary question to just your summary, which I agree is the basis of what I was trying to ask anyway. Maybe once I've got a response I'll try to ask the 'other' part of the question separately. Thanks for the feedback. – Fozefy Mar 10 '15 at 21:59
  • Of course, and thank you for editing! Yes, don't be shy to spin off new questions. The more specific each is, the better the quality of answers we'll have on this site. – Andrew Cheong Mar 10 '15 at 22:01
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The red color usually comes from certain kinds of caramel malt, which comes in a range of colors but is usually used to make a sweeter, fuller-bodied beer than everyday pale ales and lagers. In this way, they're very similar to amber ale/lagers, and the difference can be very subtle and is very subjective. If you like one, you'll 99% of the time enjoy the other. Most of what you mentioned- like Dos Equis and Yuengling- are marketed as ambers.

That said, I looked up Honest Lager, and Walkerville markets it as Märzen (sometimes but not always the same as Oktoberfest) It's less hoppy and more full-bodied than a Pils or other pale lager, and tends to be reddish or amber in color. If you look a the German/import section of your local beer store or supermarket, you should be able to find an example of something similar, just look for the words "Märzen," "Oktoberfest," "Festbier," etc. A Munich-style Dunkel would also probably be right up your alley.

Key words I would use: sweetish, medium-bodied, balanced, caramelly, toasty. But just think about different foods and aromas while you're drinking, and see what your impression is. Everybody's different.

If you do want to use the BJCP guide, just remember that they're designed for judging homebrew competitions, and professional brewers don't have much reason to pay attention to them. So if you pick up a beer and it doesn't match up with its BJCP style, it's not a catastrophe, and the beer is still perfectly good!

  • Excellent, thank you this is exactly the type of info I was looking for! I'm a bit limited as far as beer selection goes due to being from Ontario with our "The Beer Store" monopoly. However, I recently moved to the city with the largest Oktoberfest festival outside of Germany. Now that I know that is what I'm looking for I'm sure I should be able to find something I like in the area. :D – Fozefy Mar 12 '15 at 20:55
  • Awesome! I'm in Germany right now and I'm crazy excited for Biergarten season to finally be cranking up. Yeah, come late summer, you should be up to your eyeballs in Oktoberfest-syle lagers. Then you can just stockpile for the next year. I actually studied here a few years ago with a guy from Waterloo! Small world. – Cal_Wes Mar 12 '15 at 21:31
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As soon as I read "Red Lager" I thought to myself, this guy is probably looking for Vienna Lagers (aka Amber Lagers. For whatever reason beer marketers greatly prefer the term "amber" over "red" when referring to lagers, while using "red" over "amber" when referring to ales eg Red IPA). These are lagers with a slightly sweeter profile than the "standard International pilsner" style churned out by every macrobrewery, due to the addition of Vienna, crystal, and/or caramel malts. Indeed, when looking at the examples you gave on Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, RB considers both to be of the "Amber Lager/Vienna" style, while BA considers Dos Equis to be a Vienna Lager and Yuengling to be an "American Amber/Red Lager". What's the difference? Generally, the "American" prefix at the start of any beer style means that it's hoppier, due to our lovefest with hops (at least compared to the Old World). Also, RB doesn't break amber lagers into American and not varieties.

You can use the category page on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate to browse through more examples of the style. Ratebeer's list is default sorted by rating, which isn't always helpful if you don't live somewhere with a great selection, but you can click on "Count" and it will sort by number of ratings; Beer Advocate's is default sorted by number of reviews.

The two beers you mention are very widely available: On RB, Yuengling is #2 most reviewed and Dos Equis is #7; for rating though neither cracks the top 50. On BA, Dos Equis is the #3 Vienna Lager by reviews and #38 by rating, while Yuengling is the #1 American Amber/Red Lager by reviews and #21 by rating. For some great examples of Vienna/Amber Lagers you might be able to find, Sam Adams Boston Lager is rated #44 on RB and #3 on Beer Advocate (why the big discrepancy? RB users tend to be more heavily biased by the idea that certain breweries aren't "cool", while BA users tend to be more objective).

There is always the BJCP guide, which makes the rules that guide most homebrewing and professional contests such as the GABF. The GABF can have real reputation and financial influence for a brewery, so it requires very precise definitions, but outside of competitions most of the brewing world takes the BJCP with a grain of salt (or is it a grain of barley?). Personally, I prefer the Ratebeer and Beer Advocate's style categorizations. Not that they are perfect either - part of the beauty of craft beer is that it is ever-evolving, and brewer creativity knows no category bounds - but it is more democratic and reflective of actual market tastes.

If you are willing to go a little further afield, you might try a Scottish Ales, like Founders Dirty Bastard (www.ratebeer.com/beer/founders-dirty-bastard-scotch-ale/11498/); a Red IPA (not an official style) such as Troegs Nugget Nectar (www.ratebeer.com/beer/troegs-nugget-nectar-ale/30812/); or even a Bière de Garde, France's only indigenous beer style (these are harder to find, but I bet they have them in Montreal. try www.ratebeer.com/beerstyles/biere-de-garde/58/ or www.beeradvocate.com/beer/style/127/.

  • Welcome to the site! Thanks for writing such a comprehensive and helpful answer. Please feel free to write your credentials in your user profile so that everyone can see and you won't have to repeat yourself each post. Cheers! – Andrew Cheong Mar 15 '15 at 3:17
  • Thanks Andrew! I was just messing around and I got a little carried away :) I moved my credentials to my profile as you suggested. Looking forward to participating more! – Jordan Elpern-Waxman Mar 22 '15 at 4:45
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From the Beer Judge Criteria for an Irish Red Ale which is what I would consider being the closest thing to a Red Lager (A couple of the examples are actually lagers). This fits the bill for Rickard's Red.

Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, generally caramel-like but occasionally toasty or toffee-like in nature. May have a light buttery character (although this is not required). Hop aroma is low to none (usually not present). Quite clean.

Appearance: Amber to deep reddish copper color (most examples have a deep reddish hue). Clear. Low off-white to tan colored head.

Flavor: Moderate caramel malt flavor and sweetness, occasionally with a buttered toast or toffee-like quality. Finishes with a light taste of roasted grain, which lends a characteristic dryness to the finish. Generally no flavor hops, although some examples may have a light English hop flavor. Medium-low hop bitterness, although light use of roasted grains may increase the perception of bitterness to the medium range. Medium-dry to dry finish. Clean and smooth (lager versions can be very smooth). No esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although examples containing low levels of diacetyl may have a slightly slick mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation. Smooth. Moderately attenuated (more so than Scottish ales). May have a slight alcohol warmth in stronger versions.

Overall Impression: An easy-drinking pint. Malt-focused with an initial sweetness and a roasted dryness in the finish.

Comments: Sometimes brewed as a lager (if so, generally will not exhibit a diacetyl character). When served too cold, the roasted character and bitterness may seem more elevated.

The criteria also has some examples of beers that you would like if you like this:

Three Floyds Brian Boru Old Irish Ale, Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale (a bit strong at 6.5%), Kilkenny Irish Beer, O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, Beamish Red Ale, Caffrey’s Irish Ale, Goose Island Kilgubbin Red Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red (lager), Boulevard Irish Ale, Harpoon Hibernian Ale

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