Amber Ale – Everything You Need To Know About This Tasty Beer

Oct 2023 | Last modified: November 14, 2023 | 8 min read | By Patrick Norton

Ever wondered what makes amber ale stand out in the world of craft beers?

In this article, we’re about to reveal the secrets of this ale beer type. We’ll explore what defines it, savor its unique flavors, and dive into its brewing process.

Various shades of amber ales in glasses

We’ll also explore the best amber ales and address all those beer fans’ burning questions about this brew.

Ready to start on this flavorful journey? Let’s pour into it!

What Is Amber Ale?

Amber ale is a style of beer defined by its color. It is darker than a pale ale, though lighter than a stout. It also typically exhibits hues from orange-red to amber color.

The color and flavor of this craft beer are determined by how it’s made and what it’s made from. It is brewed with special malts that give the beer its color. The color varies in tone and intensity depending on which malt is used. Its color ranges from golden copper to crimson to deep cherry brown.

What Does Amber Beers Taste Like?

The special malts in amber beers reveal malt-derived aromas of caramel, toffee, toast, and nuts. They are medium to full-bodied on the palate, with flavors resembling their malty aroma. These special malts that give amber ale its color also contribute to the backbone of its aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel.

Most styles of this beer are hopped. Hops are added to contribute bitterness and freshness to the beer, balancing its sweet and rich malt flavors. Hopped techniques show medium to high bitterness and aromas of citrus and pine.

How Is It Made?

The making of amber ale begins when the special malts are created long before its ingredients have reached the hands of any brewer. The brewer’s job is to get the best out of these malts. The color and flavor of special malts will shine in the best amber beers.

The amber ales ferment’s malty base allows brewers to be creative. Good brewers will use hops to balance and complement the beer’s malt character. More adventurous brewers may choose to add syrups, fruit, or spices to the brew.

Special Malt Creation

The special malts used in colored beer styles are finished in roasting drums. This is opposed to pale malts, which are kiln-dried.

Special malts can be considered in two groups: those prepared by a simple roasting process and those stewed. The first group is the roasted malts, including amber, brown, chocolate, and black. The second group is stewed malts, including caramel and crystal malts.

These special roasted crystal malts provide amber beers with their rich and decadent caramel character. These malts are unique. The stewing process liquefies the starches contained beneath their husk. When the malts are roasted, the liquefied starches become caramelized, appearing crystalline.

Special and Pale Malt Selection

The caramel and crystal malts in most amber beers are prepared in various colors depending on their processing. Brewers look to malts of medium to dark color intensity for creating amber beer. These malts have a powerful impact on the beer, so they make up only a part of the malt used for the brew.

The rest of the malts used are kiln-dried pale malts. Though they’re uncolored, these malts are necessary for creating this craft beer. The gentle processing of kiln-dried malts allows them to keep enzymes essential to brewing. These enzymes are lost in special malts when they are roasted.

Creative Brewing

Once these malts have hit the brewery floor, all that’s left to do is to let them sing. The malts are milled and mashed, producing a wort bearing most of the character desired in an amber beer. What’s done next is determined only by the brewer’s creative intentions.

Bittering hops may be added to strike a balance with malt sweetness. Aromatic hops may be added as dry hops during fermentation to introduce aromas of pine or citrus. More adventurous brewers have been known to incorporate additions such as maple syrup, ginger, or chili. The possibilities are endless, so long as the ale is amber.

What Are Some of the Best Amber Ale?

Here are the best amber ales that you can try.

Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale

California, USA – American Amber Ale – Anderson Valley Brewing Company – 5.8% ABV

First brewed in the early 1990s, American ambers are the perfect example of amber beer. Caramel malts give this beer a color of deep copper and a toffee-like sweetness. Balance is achieved with whole-cone hops offering spice and bitterness. This beer could introduce the style or be a go-to brew for seasoned amber beer lovers.

Tröegs Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber Ale

Pennsylvania, USA – Imperial American Amber Ale – Tröegs Independent Brewing – 7.5% ABV

The Nugget Nectar is brewed with two colored malts and a five-pack of aromatic American hops. It is straw-orange and bursting with aromas of citrus and pine resin. An imperial amber beer, its higher ABV is balanced nicely with freshness from a generous dry hop.

Doom Bar Amber Ale

Cornwall, England – English Amber Ale – Sharp’s Brewery – 4.0% ABV

An English Amber, Doom Bar is as popular on cask in the pubs of England as it is in bottles. At 4% ABV, it is highly session-able and lighter in character and carbonation than most American amber ales. Flavors of dried fruit and toast define this iconic English style.

Alaskan Amber

Alaska, USA – American Amber Ale – Alaskan Brewing Co. – 5.3% ABV

Made with glacial waters and fermented slowly at low temperatures, this beer is truly a product of its environment. Since it was first brewed in the 80s, it has won a plethora of beer awards owing to its rich, malty character and exceptional balance.

Highland Brewing Company Gaelic Ale

North Carolina, USA – American Amber Ale – Highland Brewing Company – 5.8% ABV

Incorporating a range of special malts, Highland’s Gaelic Ale is a deep and vibrant amber color with a malt character just as rich. A delicate bitterness is offered by Chinook, Willamette, and Cascade hops. Marketed as “Asheville’s first beer,” it has since won several awards in North Carolina.

Amber Ale FAQ’s

In this section, you get answers to some frequently asked questions about amber ales.

Are Amber Ale Beers Good?

Yes, they are. They strike a balance between sweet malt warmth and bitter hop freshness. It’s a beer for all seasons and occasions, suitable for the ski lodge and patio party.

What Is the History of Amber Ale?

The history of amber ale depends on how you look at it because beers with colors on the spectrum of amber have been around in Europe since the Middle Ages. On the other hand, the name “amber ale” and the use of caramel and crystal malts began much more recently.

The name “amber ale” was first mentioned in 1876, when the Collier Brothers brewery of London trademarked the term to the beer market with a position between the English bitter and IPA styles.

The use of caramel malts in beer production began after WWII, steadily gaining popularity throughout the 20th century. The American amber beer first graced the scene early in the 1980s, cropping up in California and the Pacific Northwest during the U.S. microbrewery movement.

What Is the Difference Between Amber Ale and Red Ale?

The difference is mainly in labeling. As is the case for beers of most styles, it is up to brewers to decide what they’re named. An amber ale, a red ale, and an American pale ale could be the same beer.

From a historical standpoint, beers called “red ale” were invented long before any named “amber ale.” Amber ale is mainly used to describe American amber beer or red ale.

What Is American Amber Ale?

An authentic American amber beer is brewed only with American ingredients. Most American amber ales are brewed in the U.S., though there are shining examples from many corners of the craft beer world.

They are a contemporary style made with modern brewing techniques and ingredients. Caramel and crystal malts are important to the style. American hops such as Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Amarillo are used.

Amber Ale Concluded

Though amber ales have a rich and mysterious history, they are in their heyday right now. More and more beer brewers and drinkers are falling in love with amber ale.

There is no better time to join their reveling in this beer gem. Get your lips around one today!

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