We brightened the dreary weather this week with three brightly colored brews. Red ales are a bit of a catch-all – they’re usually more about the malt than the hops, except when they’re not – but they’re all tinted rusty with tiny additions of very dark malts. These three are made in different styles, but all fall on the distinctly red side of the color spectrum. Harrington’s has been a Christchurch standby since 1991, when they were in the front lines of good people introducing better beer to New Zealand. Funk Estate makes uncommon beers out of Wellington; the Renegade Red is second in their special-edition “Mastermind” series. Craftwork, in Oamaru, focuses on idiosyncratic, small batch Belgian styles.

Harrington’s Breweries
Classy Red

Extra Special Bitter (5.0% ABV)

ESBs aren’t strictly red ales, but the label on this one is red and so is the beer. Pours a pretty auburn color. Caramel aromas in front of a strongly bitter and hop-driven flavor profile, but with enough malt to lend a little weight and balance. A fine example of the style, and very drinkable.

Funk Estate
– Renegade Red IPA

Red IPA (6.6% ABV)

“Renegade” is an apt name for this one. “Red IPA” isn’t a traditional beer style as such, but it’s not a bad description here. Darker than the rest but still ruddy. This is surprisingly subtle on both the nose and the palate: caramel-sweet but not too sweet, robustly hoppy but not too bitter, fruity and with some mixed spice or hazelnut in the background. A smooth, silky mouthfeel goes down smooth.

Red Bonnet

Flanders Sour Red Ale (7.4% ABV)

Let’s get something straight fast: if you’re not already into sours, this won’t taste like any beer you’ve ever tried before. Flanders sour is a traditional Belgian style fermented with a blend of wild yeasts to produce intentionally tart flavors, bottled unfiltered and unpasteurized, and finished in oak barrels. The Red Bonnet does all three and dresses it in bright red. It’s sour, with lots of fruity-tart cherry and grapefruit notes. Between the acidity, the relatively light body, and the long finish, this might work more like an especially crisp wine than a typical red ale if we’re pairing with food.