Killian’s Red or Amber Bock? Both are considered the same type of beer-a red/amber lager. I happen to like a lot of amber/red beers, particularly of the Irish variety. But in the U.S., it turns out, “amber” or “red” beer are more about slick martketing techniques than actually denoting a distinct style of beer. One beer site (http://www.sallybernstein.com/beverages/beer/red_beer.htm) describes that the attributes that make a beer ‘amber’ or ‘red’ in hues have more to do with the malts used in the brewing process. Many a Scottish ale or Vienna-style lager are naturally amber/red due to the particular malt and other roasted grains that comprise it. Amber beers are usually ales, but if they’re lagers, like the Killian’s or Amber Bock, it’s because the Big Beer Machine made them into lagers so that they appeal to the thirsty Bud- and Coors-swilling masses: Coors makes Killians and Bud/Michelob makes Amber Bock. (Nothing against Amber Bock. It’s like Sam Adams. I kinda like it. Amber Bock is the best beer they serve at Dodger Stadium, and I owe many a delightfully-buzzed top-deck Doyer game experience to my large Amber Bocks…) But I digress.
USAmerican style amber/red ales tend to range from light-bodied (not to be confused with color) to heavy-medium in body and mouthfeel, which is why I like ambers as good transitional beers. They’re great for when you’re weaning yourself from all that cold light lager you pounded over the summer and want to move into the heavier, darker beers that generally arrive with fall and winter, my favorite beer seasons. Ambers beers are good autumn beers and much better to enjoy while watching football than Coors and Miller Lite (contrary to the NFL sponsors’ beliefs.) Hey, I’m slowly-but-surely coming out of my “I like NFL/College football” closet, and this season, I’m celebrating my coming-out by taking flight…a beer flight…an amber beer flight! (Real quick: flights of beer or wine are just multiple tastings, anywhere from 3-8 tastes, so as to get a sense of breadth/depth/range of flavor and style with whatever you’re tasting.)
My out-and-proud flight consisted of these 4 beers (in recommended tasting order)–Alaskan Amber (Alasking Brewing Co.), Redemption Red Ale (Reaper Ale, El Monte, CA), Albion Amber Ale (Marin Brewing Co.), and American Amber Ale (Rogue Brewing Co., Newport, OR). The Alaskan Amber is a quality beer and is pretty easily found in supermarkets and liquor stores. It’s probably the most easy to find out of the four here, so I wanted to start with that (plus, my parents went to Alaska this summer and I heard the beer there is really good). Alaskan amber pours a clear light copper with rust-colored hues. It’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied, but is easy to drink, clean, and no aftertaste. If you like Sam Adams, you’ll like Alaskan Amber.
Next was Redepmtion Red Ale from El Monte, güey. I enjoyed this one and was even happier that I was supporting a very local brewery in the mean time. This red ale is smooth-tasting with subtle toasty almond flavors that come through with every sip. It has a nice reddish/caramel hue, a little cloudy pointing to unfiltered beer goodness. It’s medium-bodied but easy to drink because it’s so flavorful. Check out the full line at http://www.reaperale.com.
Third beer was the Albion Amber Ale made up in Marin County. Mmmm…my cousin was tasting these beers with me, and we both agreed this one was special. This one pours with a bit more clarity, though more toastier and browner in color. It has a longer finish than the Reaper; my cousin described it as a “tart apple finish that melts away in your mouth.” It’s true! The flavor is a little drier than the previous two beers and definitely has more bitter hops flavor. I like to think of this as a hybrid beer, or what would happen if a California Pale Ale (say, like a light version of Sierra Nevada) had a baby with a British pub bitter ale. “We’ll name it…Albion!” I’m not surprised that this is one of Marin Brewing Co.’s most decorated, award-winning beers. Go getcha one!
Last but not least was the Rogue American Amber Ale from Oregon. This was the most full-bodied, complex, and stronger of the ambers we tasted. It pours an opaque copper with a medium head and strong nose. It’s the spiciest of the beer in the sense that it’s very hops-forward (compared to the Marin Albion), giving way to malty and caramel tones. This also reminded me of a strong Pale Ale-meets-malty-Irish-red-ale. If you like Stone beers, you’d like anything from Rogue, including this all-American Amber Ale. See? Perfect to hoist as you watch those all-American military jets fly over the stadium (your tax dollars hard at work!) as your favorite team is about to kick off.
[Go Cal Bears and Go Indianapolis Colts!]
cheers n beers.