The perfect red

By BeertownNZ Fri, 09 Jun 2017 National

Red is one of the most challenging colours to nail when brewing beer. 

When done right it can come out as a brilliant ruby red that just shines in the glass. At the Gladfield pilot brewery we have found a few key elements for developing red ale malt bills to make hitting that colour a little easier.

1. Target a colour between 32 and 37 EBC. We have found this to be the sweet spot for hitting that ruby colour. Too light and you beer will be brown, to dark and your beer will be darker brown.

2. Malt choice is a big one, but will also be dependent on what flavours you want in the beer. Here are the three big hitters for getting the right red colour:

  • Aurora – A base malt, Aurora brings in great malty and light fruity flavours and a beautiful red hue. It can be used up to 100% of the grist for red or amber ale.
  • RedBack – A less modified crystal malt with a beautiful red colour. This also brings in some lighter malty and sweet flavours along with enhanced body and head retention. Use up to 20%
  • Shepherds Delight – The darkest of the red malts, with the most bang for your buck as a little bit goes a long way in achieving colour and flavour. Pairs very well with Vienna malt for the enhanced sweetness, or with some of our darker crystal malts. Use at 8-10% maximum. This malt can impart an astringent flavour initially but it mellows out after a few weeks.

3. Serve the beer in the glass that shows it off the best. Often the red colour will only truly come out in the right glass or lighting conditions. So use that to your advantage. If a beer is a brilliant ruby red in a pilsner glass pouring it into a traditional pint glass could make it appear orange-brown. Try a few options and stick with the best. Sunlight always seems to show off the red better than indoor lighting, so lounge out on the patio and drink those red beers in the sun!

4. Don’t give up on the first go. Brewing is an art and a science and it takes persistence on both fronts to craft a perfect beer. Brew often, drink the mistakes and tweak the recipes to perfection.

Here are some of our favourite red ale recipes that cater to different styles of beers. Some are more malt-forward, where others push into the hoppier styles without losing that great red hue. All recipes make 25 litres.

Red Ale


2.5kg Gladfield Ale Malt (36.8%)

2.0kg Vienna Malt (29.4%)

1.4kg Aurora Malt (20.6%)

0.55kg Red Back Malt (8.1%)

0.35kg Shepherds Delight Malt (5.1%)

60min – 20g Pacific Gem

15min – 15g Pacifica

5min – 15g Pacifica


Target Original Gravity 1.061

Estimated ABV 6.2%

Target IBU 25

Mash at 67°C




3.94kg American Ale Malt (60.6%)

1.31kg Vienna Malt (20.2%)

0.26kg Toffee Malt (4%)

0.46kg Red Back Malt (7.1%)

0.53kg Shepherds Delight Malt (8.1%)

60min – 32g Pacific Jade

15min – 20g NZ Cascade

0min – 25g Pacifica and 15g NZ Cascade


Target Original Gravity 1.060

Estimated ABV 6.1%

Target IBU 40+

Mash at 65°C


Smoked Red Ale


2.79kg American Ale Malt (45%)

1.55kg Manuka Smoked Malt (25%)

1.12kg Aurora Malt (18%)

0.37kg RedBack Malt (6%)

0.37kg Shepherds Delight Malt (6%)

60min – 10g Pacific Gem

15min – 10g Pacific Gem

1min – 15gSouthern Cross


Target Original Gravity 1.055

Estimated ABV 5.6%

Target IBU 37

Mash at 67°C

Sponsored content contributed by Caleb DeFrees, Gladfield Malt Production Manager and Gladfield Pilot Brewery guru


By BeertownNZ Fri, 09 Jun 2017 National