Red IPA is one of the newest sub-styles to break off of the American IPA style category. But, it is also the sub-style with the weakest case for separation. Little differentiates the Red IPA sub-style from its mother. A little less caramel maltiness and a shade or two lighter; it’s an American IPA.
Red IPA Beer
In fact, most will still fit into the American IPA guidelines, and most drinkers wouldn’t see anything but a slightly maltier American IPA in front of them.
It’s a thin line.
If you look at it from the American Amber side; lower the hop profile, raise the malt profile, maybe tweak the alcohol range, and that Red IPA is an American Amber. But, you can’t get a Red IPA by simply making an Imperial Red Ale. The crisp drinkability of an IPA has to be there, too, and Imperial Red Ales, in general, drink more like American Strong Ales or Barleywines.
Again, a rather thin line.
Are these thin separations enough? I’m about half convinced.
I enjoy English IPAs more than the American version, so when I see a Red IPA (or Brown IPA) on the shelves I know that these will have a slightly stronger malt profile. And I like that; knowing before I buy. But, what does my opinion matter right?
The Red style was obviously popular enough, and the separation prominent enough for the Beer Judge Certification Program to add it to the style guidelines in 2015.
Though it may seem a finely disguised American IPA, it has found a home in the marketplace. Perhaps it started as a marketing gimmick to differentiate one brewery’s IPA in a world chalk full of hoppy beer. Tack on a slightly different descriptor, and your beer stands out just that much more when a bottle-shocked customer is staring glassy-eyed at the wall of choice in his local bottle shop.
However and wherever the name was first used, it has become common language in the craft brewing world since and one of the earliest commercially offered Red IPAs is Sockeye Red from Midnight Sun Brewery in Anchorage Alaska. It was first brewed in the early 2000s and features an ABV of 5.7% and the bittering/flavor punch of Simcoe, Cascade, and Centennial to the tune of 70 IBUs.