Beer Style 19A: American Amber Ale
There are dozens of beer styles and we know it can get a little confusing, so each week we profile a particular style of beer in the Devil’s Peak Beer Guide. We’ll outline styles from the 2015 BJCP guidelines, offering both a technical and somewhat anecdotal overview of the dozens of beer offerings from around the world.
19A American Amber Ale
While it’s true all beers are meant to show some semblance of balance, the American Amber Ale has to be the typification of the word . . . well . . . most of the time.
The style was pioneered on the west coast of the United States by brewers looking to get a bit more out of their pale ales. But it didn’t stay there for long. As its popularity and national footprint grew, the AAA very quickly carved a niche for itself, becoming a style which is now brewed and enjoyed around the world.
Our award winning take on the style, the Woodhead Amber Ale, is a slightly more hop forward take on this classic and beloved style. The aroma of citrus notes comfortably settling into a pool of caramel and malt makes for an exceptional nose while the malt and hop vie for superiority on the palate. To date, this is still my favourite beer produced by Devil’s Peak.
I know what you’re thinking.
“But what about Blockhouse! How could you?!”
There’s something about an American Amber Ale that just sits right with me – moderate malt, moderate hop, moderate carbonation, and medium body with a silky smooth finish. Maybe it’s some kind of emotional attachment from my early days discovering craft beer, but that copper hue lights up a glass like few others.
Here’s the brass tax, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: An amber, hoppy, moderate-strength American craft beer with a caramel malty flavor. The balance can vary quite a bit, with some versions being fairly malty and others being aggressively hoppy. Hoppy and bitter versions should not have clashing flavors with the caramel malt profile.
Aroma: Low to moderate hop aroma with characteristics typical of American or New World hop varieties (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon). A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. Moderately-low to moderately-high maltiness (usually with a moderate caramel character), which can either support, balance, or sometimes mask the hop presentation. Esters vary from moderate to none.
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 with characteristics typical of American or New World hop varieties (citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon). A citrusy hop character is common, but not required. 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, but can vary either way. Fruity esters can be moderate to none. Caramel sweetness and hop flavor/bitterness can linger somewhat into the medium to full finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Medium to high carbonation. Overall smooth finish without astringency. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth.
Comments: Can overlap in color with darker American pale ales, but with a different malt flavor and balance. Regional variations exist with some being fairly mainstream and others being quite aggressive in hopping. Stronger and more bitter versions are now split into the Red IPA style.
History: A modern American craft beer style developed as a variation from American Pale Ales. Known simply as Red Ales in some regions, these beers were popularized in the hop-loving Northern California and the Pacific Northwest areas before spreading nationwide.
Characteristic Ingredients: Pale ale malt, typically North American two-row. Medium to dark crystal malts. May also contain specialty grains which add additional character and uniqueness. American or New World hops, often with citrusy flavors, are common but others may also be used.
Style Comparison: Darker, more caramelly, more body, and generally less bitter in the balance than American Pale Ales. Less alcohol, bitterness, and hop character than Red IPAs. Less strength, malt, and hop character than American Strong Ales. Should not have a strong chocolate or roast character that might suggest an American brown ale (although small amounts are OK).
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.045 – 1.060
IBUs: 25 – 40 FG: 1.010 – 1.015
SRM: 10 – 17 ABV: 4.5 – 6.2%
Commercial Examples: Deschutes Cinder Cone Red, Full Sail Amber, Kona Lavaman Red Ale, North Coast Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale, Rogue American Amber Ale, Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale
Tags: standard-strength, amber-color, top-fermented, north-america, craft-style, amber-ale-family, balanced, hoppy