While it is my favorite of all seasons with the abundance of Marzens out there, it is the more logically time of year for the less hoppy, more malty categories to shine as well. As it seems the Commonwealth will allow us to have a few extra days of fall this year, it is the perfect time to get into another big category: Irish Reds. There are a few big differences between the two, most notably that traditional Marzens are lagers and Irish Red Ales are, well, ales. Outside of the traditional color difference, Irish Reds push past just the toasted malts and move into tea and caramel characteristics, often heightened by a sweeter front. We have only reviewed one Irish Red in Virginia, so the season seems right to get back into them.
Rockville Red, Midnight Brewery (Goochland, VA)
Marzen/Oktoberfest, ABV%: 5.5, IBU: 23
Presentation: Bottle pour into tasting cup, rest from the bottle.
Appearance: Deep red to amber in color, slightly hazy, off white head that sits fairly well and stands for a while.
Aroma: Medium to medium light toasted and caramel notes, slight sweet and tea leaves.
Taste: Malty, caramel, earthy front and middle, finishing a little sweet with a slight bready end.
ABV/IBU Mouthfeel: Medium-full body, thicker and creamier than most other irish red. ABV slightly noticeable and on the upper range of IRAs. Hops play a part at the end to bring it slightly past neutral for a mildly sweet, dry finish.
Overall: This was a solid choice for us. It felt a lot more complex after a few sips and other notes started to push through. This is definitely a departure from the marzens we have had, and really kept us on our toes to pick out the distinctive flavors. Overall it falls right in line with the season and can be enjoyed by a wide audience. This is one of their year-rounders so it is available in Central Virginia all year, but, again, best enjoyed in the seasonal changes (now through October, end March through beginning of May). This is a great change of pace beer for tailgates with burgers and brats but can also sit down with steak and whole chicken and veggies.