American Amber / Red Ale

Two weeks ago, we profiled the utilitarian, yet tasty Mary Ann.  So this week, we’re turning our attention over to that more revered starlet, Ginger.  And we’re also paying honor to the Phillies’ quest for a third straight World Series appearance, by having this week’s Style profile as the American Amber / Red Ale (notice how we held off on this style until the Phils were finished with the Reds?). 

The American Amber Ale is a great Autumn style to transition you from the Summer’s lighter offerings, to the Winter’s heavier beasts… and is an all-around great example of a “gateway beer style”, if we may say so ourselves!   


Known often as just “red ales”, this style of beer was born and became famous in the hop-happy Pacific Northwest, and has spread like wildfire (but in a GOOD wildfire kind of way) throughout the country.


Below is the Gateway Beers profile of the typical characteristics you’ll find in an American Amber / Red Ale (on a 1-5 bar scale):


Here is a good description of the Style from the Beer Judge Certification Program’s most recent style guidelines:

Aroma: Low to moderate hop aroma from dry hopping or late kettle additions of American hop varieties. A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. Moderately low to moderately high maltiness balances and sometimes masks the hop presentation, and usually shows a moderate caramel character. Esters vary from moderate to none. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Amber to coppery brown in color. Moderately large off-white head with good retention. Generally quite clear, although dry-hopped versions may be slightly hazy.

Flavor: Moderate to high hop flavor from American hop varieties, which often but not always has a citrusy quality. Malt flavors are moderate to strong, and usually show an initial malty sweetness followed by a moderate caramel flavor (and sometimes other character malts in lesser amounts). Malt and hop bitterness are usually balanced and mutually supportive. Fruity esters can be moderate to none. Caramel sweetness and hop flavor/bitterness can linger somewhat into the medium to full finish. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Carbonation moderate to high. Overall smooth finish without astringency often associated with high hopping rates. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth.

Overall Impression: Like an American pale ale with more body, more caramel richness, and a balance more towards malt than hops (although hop rates can be significant).

Comments: Can overlap in color with American pale ales. However, American amber ales differ from American pale ales not only by being usually darker in color, but also by having more caramel flavor, more body, and usually being balanced more evenly between malt and bitterness. Should not have a strong chocolate or roast character that might suggest an American brown ale (although small amounts are OK).


The American Amber is so well balanced, that it fits right in with a ton of cullinary creations – especially those in the comfort food category.  The clean, sweet caramel malt flavors pair nicely with pork – either a pork chop, or pulled pork sandwich.  Nearly all pizzas pair nicely (with the possible exception of white pizza), as do burgers with cheddar cheese, and barbequed chicken, too (barbeque chicken pizza, anyone?!?) 



The American Amber Ale is best served at 45-50°, and we recommend pouring it into either a pint glass or mug – very simple and unassuming, just like the food pairings.


There are a ton of American Amber / Red Ales available here in Eastern PA – approximately 60 in total, with the following 3 varieties being both well-rated, and readily available at your better bottle shops and distributors in the area:

Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, 6.8% ABV  (Healdsburg, CA)

Troegs HopBack Amber Ale, 6% ABV  (Harrisburg, PA)

Stone Levitation Ale, 4.4% ABV  (Escondido, CA)

For additional recommendations, check out our American Amber / Red Ale page, or just connect with us on FACEBOOK for daily recommendations this week … and Leave a Reply below to let us know what you think about the style! 

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