Did you know that the best-selling cask and bottle beer in the UK is an amber ale? Smooth yet complex, harmonising sweet and toasty notes with a bitter finish. Let’s take a closer look at some deeply satisfying ambers.

Author: Malin Norman

The most popular cask and bottle beer in the UK is Doom Bar, an amber ale brewed by Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall. And the delicious ambers, also called red ales, have been part of the American craft beer movement since the outset – perhaps you have tried New Belgium’s Fat Tire, an amber ale with a cult status which also happens to be America’s first certified carbon neutral beer. But what makes these beers so popular?

Randy Mosher, the author of Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink, one of the best-selling beer resources, provides some insights. “This was one of the first craft-beer styles and provided something different, but not too challenging,” he writes about amber and red ale. “Ambers are basically a beefy session beer, so good drinkability is important. The key to this is using hops in a way that is assertive without being tiring; building a malt base that is profound but not cloying.”r

© Odell Brewing Co.

All-year round appeal

Sitting in between dark robust porters and lighter summery brews, amber ales have a great all-year appeal. They have complex sweet and toasty malt character with some fruitiness from the yeast, harmonised with a soft bitterness and moderate in alcohol. So basically lots of flavour yet refreshing, what’s not to like? 

One of my favourites is Red Seal Ale from North Coast Brewing, a pioneer in craft beer since 1988 with the mission to “Make the World a Better Place, One Pint at a Time.” Their American amber ale is a great example where “malt and hops are beautifully married,” as expressed by the brewery.

© Sharp’s Brewery

Here are some delicious and well-balanced amber ales to try:

Doom Bar (4%), Sharp’s Brewery: the UK’s best-selling cask and bottled ale and winner of many prominent awards, including Inapub People’s Choice Award for Favourite Cask Ale Gold 2020. A well-balanced beer with sweet roasted malts, dried fruit and subtle bitterness.

Red Seal Ale (5.4% ABV), North Coast Brewing Co.: another award-winning amber ale, rated “very good” by BeerAdvocate. The brewery quotes Mark Lisheron, Austin American-Statesman, praising the lovely amber; “Red Seal strikes the perfect balance between refreshment and substance.”

Fat Tire (5.2% ABV), New Belgium Brewing Co.: named as one of the most important American beers of all time by VinePair and considered “a stepping stone into the world of craft beer for many drinkers.” An appealing, balanced beer with fresh herbal hops and fruity yeast.

Amber Ale (5.8% ABV), Bell’s Brewery: a classic, the beer that helped build this Michigan-based brewery. A versatile and robust amber with toasted and sweet caramel, citrus notes and herbs. Also check out the brewery’s promising food pairings and recipes made with the amber ale.

90 Shilling Ale (5.3% ABV), Odell Brewing: Odell’s flagship beer, brewed since 1989. According to Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewer’s Association, ”this is a dignified, full-flavored session beer that is approachable yet deeply satisfying.”

Pictures: New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Co., Sharp’s Brewery