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Author Topic: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl  (Read 2403 times)

Offline Fritz

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Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« on: October 04, 2022, 09:19:37 am »


Hello!

I am struggling with the "buttery" description of Irish Red Ale (15A) in the 2021 BJCP Guide.

Can someone provide a definitive interpretation of the BJCP 15A on whether we are dealing with diacetyl or a toffee-like complex?

1. in the Overall Impression section: "an initial soft toffee or caramel sweetness."
2. In the Aroma section: "or toffee character. Very light buttery character optional."
3. In the Flavor section: "rarely with a light buttered toast or toffee-like quality."

At this point, there is no direct reference to "diacetyl," and the buttery character seems to be associated with toffee. Of course, toffee does indeed have a buttery component, and a number of crystal malts are known to impart toffee notes. I'm not sure what to make of "buttered toast"; it seems to be a blend of toffee and toast malt flavors. If it is a reference to diacetyl, it is an odd choice of words, given that "buttered popcorn" is the standard descriptor, and buttered toast and buttered popcorn are quite different.

Prior to 15A, diacetyl is used exclusively as the descriptor for buttery off flavors. A "butter"-related word appears only once prior to 15A, and that is in the Czech Lager description of "significant buttery diacetyl is a flaw" (BJCP Guidelines 2022, p. 4). "Buttered toast" does not appear elsewhere in the guidelines. This contributes to my confusion.

4. In the Mouthfeel section: "examples containing low levels of diacetyl may have a slightly slick mouthfeel." This is the first direct reference to diacetyl.

So, I'm not sure what we are dealing with here in terms of a buttery character. Are the above terms really descriptions of diacetyl, or are they descriptions of toffee-rich notes that impart a buttery character?

Thanks for your help.

Fritz Schanz
President, Denton County Homebrewers Guild
Certified Judge


Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2022, 10:02:09 am »
These are tough to describe.  A lot of UK crystal malts do bring some toffee and some UK ale yeast strains do produce a bit of diacetyl if you're not careful (1968 London ESB comes to mind) and these yeast strains also seem to produce some bready and minerally character so from all of that you could leap to 'toffee and buttered toast' but I don't know that I would.  If you wanted to achieve all of these traits in the beer I think it would be straightforward.  Use some UK crystal and use an English strain of yeast known to bring diacetyl and see what you get.  For me, the flavor of the UK crystal is nice (Bairds, Simpsons and Thomas Fawcett are nice) and the bready component from the yeast is always welcome... I love that character.  Diacetyl, not so much.  I prefer ZERO diacetyl in a beer.  The Irish Ale yeast that comes to mind is White Labs 1084 but it's been awhile since I used it.  Not sure if it produces diacetyl or not but it DOES have that bready character. 
« Last Edit: October 04, 2022, 10:03:43 am by Village Taphouse »
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Offline denny

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2022, 11:13:45 am »
These are tough to describe.  A lot of UK crystal malts do bring some toffee and some UK ale yeast strains do produce a bit of diacetyl if you're not careful (1968 London ESB comes to mind) and these yeast strains also seem to produce some bready and minerally character so from all of that you could leap to 'toffee and buttered toast' but I don't know that I would.  If you wanted to achieve all of these traits in the beer I think it would be straightforward.  Use some UK crystal and use an English strain of yeast known to bring diacetyl and see what you get.  For me, the flavor of the UK crystal is nice (Bairds, Simpsons and Thomas Fawcett are nice) and the bready component from the yeast is always welcome... I love that character.  Diacetyl, not so much.  I prefer ZERO diacetyl in a beer.  The Irish Ale yeast that comes to mind is White Labs 1084 but it's been awhile since I used it.  Not sure if it produces diacetyl or not but it DOES have that bready character.

I always got diacetyl (and sometimes pineapple) from 1084.

And once again, it's interesting to note that the heritage of Irish red is French, not Irish.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2022, 12:16:30 pm »
These are tough to describe.  A lot of UK crystal malts do bring some toffee and some UK ale yeast strains do produce a bit of diacetyl if you're not careful (1968 London ESB comes to mind) and these yeast strains also seem to produce some bready and minerally character so from all of that you could leap to 'toffee and buttered toast' but I don't know that I would.  If you wanted to achieve all of these traits in the beer I think it would be straightforward.  Use some UK crystal and use an English strain of yeast known to bring diacetyl and see what you get.  For me, the flavor of the UK crystal is nice (Bairds, Simpsons and Thomas Fawcett are nice) and the bready component from the yeast is always welcome... I love that character.  Diacetyl, not so much.  I prefer ZERO diacetyl in a beer.  The Irish Ale yeast that comes to mind is White Labs 1084 but it's been awhile since I used it.  Not sure if it produces diacetyl or not but it DOES have that bready character.

I always got diacetyl (and sometimes pineapple) from 1084.

And once again, it's interesting to note that the heritage of Irish red is French, not Irish.
I recently read something about the origin of Irish Red Ale and I seem to remember the article saying it was "basically made up".  The concept of Killian's Irish Red was pretty much a marketing gig backed up by nothing except a bunch of historical fiction.  Never underestimate a marketing department's work in an effort to sell beer.  I will admit to liking Smithwick's Irish Ale which is [was?] quite dark but if you held it up to the light you would get some red.  I haven't had it in awhile but it used to be a decent beer. 
Ken from Chicago. 
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2022, 12:35:30 pm »
My interpretation:  A very low amount of diacetyl is allowed in an Irish red ale, and the BJCP guideline is allowing for this.  You wouldn't want it to be a significant distraction.  However if the beer is a little buttery like "buttered toast" or toffee or whatever, this should be acceptable.  The fact that the mouthfeel section of the guideline mentions "low diacetyl" supports that it is allowed in low amounts.

I think what Gordon et al. were attempting to do with the latest revision of the guidelines was to describe what the beer actually tastes like, rather than relying so heavily on terms like diacetyl or DMS or whatever, which have grown to have negative connotations for several styles, even styles in which these "off-flavors" are actually allowed.  It seems to be an attempt to downplay the negativity, and be less likely to tip off people who despise these flavors with an unwarranted level of passion.

But I'm not Gordon, or anyone important for that matter, so I don't really know for sure.  Just an educated guess.

I will admit to liking Smithwick's Irish Ale which is [was?] quite dark but if you held it up to the light you would get some red.  I haven't had it in awhile but it used to be a decent beer.

I drink Smithwick's fairly regularly.  If it is helpful to set aside that Irish red was a recent style invention, and just enjoy the beer for what it is... Smithwick's is definitely an excellent, well brewed, tasty beer.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2022, 12:37:59 pm by dmtaylor »
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Offline denny

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2022, 12:55:12 pm »
These are tough to describe.  A lot of UK crystal malts do bring some toffee and some UK ale yeast strains do produce a bit of diacetyl if you're not careful (1968 London ESB comes to mind) and these yeast strains also seem to produce some bready and minerally character so from all of that you could leap to 'toffee and buttered toast' but I don't know that I would.  If you wanted to achieve all of these traits in the beer I think it would be straightforward.  Use some UK crystal and use an English strain of yeast known to bring diacetyl and see what you get.  For me, the flavor of the UK crystal is nice (Bairds, Simpsons and Thomas Fawcett are nice) and the bready component from the yeast is always welcome... I love that character.  Diacetyl, not so much.  I prefer ZERO diacetyl in a beer.  The Irish Ale yeast that comes to mind is White Labs 1084 but it's been awhile since I used it.  Not sure if it produces diacetyl or not but it DOES have that bready character.

I always got diacetyl (and sometimes pineapple) from 1084.

And once again, it's interesting to note that the heritage of Irish red is French, not Irish.
I recently read something about the origin of Irish Red Ale and I seem to remember the article saying it was "basically made up".  The concept of Killian's Irish Red was pretty much a marketing gig backed up by nothing except a bunch of historical fiction.  Never underestimate a marketing department's work in an effort to sell beer.  I will admit to liking Smithwick's Irish Ale which is [was?] quite dark but if you held it up to the light you would get some red.  I haven't had it in awhile but it used to be a decent beer.

That was an article by Martyn Cornell that I posted here

Here it is again

https://zythophile.co.uk/2021/08/25/how-one-irishmans-ginger-beard-helped-launch-an-entirely-bogus-style-of-beer/
« Last Edit: October 04, 2022, 01:35:49 pm by denny »
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2022, 01:47:31 pm »
I drink Smithwick's fairly regularly.  If it is helpful to set aside that Irish red was a recent style invention, and just enjoy the beer for what it is... Smithwick's is definitely an excellent, well brewed, tasty beer.
Is it the same as it's been for a long time or did they change it because it fell under some other brewery's umbrella?  I was at a local Irish place awhile back (lots of alcohol, dreadful food... you know, authentic :D) and I was drinking Boddington's on draft and then switched to Smithwick's and it seemed different to me but it could have been a number of things including being mishandled and the aforementioned dreadful food messing with my tastebuds. 
Ken from Chicago. 
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2022, 02:21:09 pm »
I drink Smithwick's fairly regularly.  If it is helpful to set aside that Irish red was a recent style invention, and just enjoy the beer for what it is... Smithwick's is definitely an excellent, well brewed, tasty beer.
Is it the same as it's been for a long time or did they change it because it fell under some other brewery's umbrella?  I was at a local Irish place awhile back (lots of alcohol, dreadful food... you know, authentic :D) and I was drinking Boddington's on draft and then switched to Smithwick's and it seemed different to me but it could have been a number of things including being mishandled and the aforementioned dreadful food messing with my tastebuds.

I'm not sure.  I didn't drink a lot of it 15-20 years ago when I seem to remember it being around, so I've no realistic way to compare early to now.  I just know that today I like it very much.
Dave

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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2022, 02:23:06 pm »
I just went to the site of my local bottle shop and typed SMITHWICKS into the search.  One picture came up with the familiar label (green) and the Smithwicks logo, etc.  Also, a picture came up for Smithwick's Red Ale in a red box.  Did they change their packaging (and the name of the beer) or is this a completely different beer?  NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE!  :D

Is this...



The same as this?

« Last Edit: October 04, 2022, 02:27:12 pm by Village Taphouse »
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2022, 07:59:42 pm »
Yep, they must be in process of freshening their look.  The big bold red color for a red ale might sell better than a drab green package.
Dave

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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2022, 11:57:35 am »
Now that we have effectively derailed this thread, I might as well keep going.  :D  I stopped at my local bottle shop today to pick up a sixer of the Smithwick's shown above with the red label.  The old packaging did not call the beer a "red ale"... just an Irish Ale.  I put them in the fridge and will have one soon.  If it's the same as it ever was, I should be able to tell.  Smooth and malty, quite dark with some red glints if you hold it up to the light. 
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2022, 05:20:31 am »
I'm no expert but my impression when I read buttered toast is biscuity and a little bit of cracker with the smoothness of a little butter.  Basically, like a bite of fresh buttered toast.  I don't really think diacetyl. More umami than a flavor.

YMMV

Paul
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Offline Bel Air Brewing

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2022, 12:33:17 pm »
The question at hand:

Is it acceptable to have any butter / toffee like flavors in an Irish Red?

According to the BJCP style guidelines, it is not a flaw to have this flavor profile in an Irish Red.

edit: Bought a 6 pack of Smithwicks Irish Red. Did not care for it at all. It was drinkable, but that's it.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2022, 02:01:25 pm by Bel Air Brewing »

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2022, 11:55:25 am »
The question at hand:

Is it acceptable to have any butter / toffee like flavors in an Irish Red?

According to the BJCP style guidelines, it is not a flaw to have this flavor profile in an Irish Red.

edit: Bought a 6 pack of Smithwicks Irish Red. Did not care for it at all. It was drinkable, but that's it.
I also bought a sixer but they're all still in the fridge.  I *DID*, however find myself at a watering hole on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon (yesterday) and they had it on tap.  It was great and it's the same beer I remember so I have to assume it's just had a bit of rebranding.  Also, I was pronouncing it SMITH-WICKS for a long time until someone told me (years ago) that it's pronounced more like SMIDDICKS.  I ordered it that way and the server squinted and started looking at my menu.  I pointed to it and he said SMITHWI... uh... SMIDDI... Okay folks, be right back.  :D
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Offline denny

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Re: Irish Red Ale and Diacetyl
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2022, 12:22:45 pm »
The question at hand:

Is it acceptable to have any butter / toffee like flavors in an Irish Red?

According to the BJCP style guidelines, it is not a flaw to have this flavor profile in an Irish Red.

edit: Bought a 6 pack of Smithwicks Irish Red. Did not care for it at all. It was drinkable, but that's it.
I also bought a sixer but they're all still in the fridge.  I *DID*, however find myself at a watering hole on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon (yesterday) and they had it on tap.  It was great and it's the same beer I remember so I have to assume it's just had a bit of rebranding.  Also, I was pronouncing it SMITH-WICKS for a long time until someone told me (years ago) that it's pronounced more like SMIDDICKS.  I ordered it that way and the server squinted and started looking at my menu.  I pointed TO it and he said SMITHWI... uh... SMIDDI... Okay folks, be right back.  :D

I've always heard it pronounced "smithicks"
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