I think it’s unfortunate that one of the beer varieties being somewhat passed by in development is the Red Ale.  IPAs are getting straight up nuts, stouts have had every other flavor under the sun in there, but what of the humble red?  Dang it all, a red ale is more than its colorful malt blend, it’s a canvas for experimentation like any other.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with Coronado Brewing Company’s version, Mermaid’s Red Ale.  I tried their coffee stout and their Imperial IPA, and was admittedly quite content with them.  They weren’t super crazy, but they had some character to them, enough at least to take them away from being too “defined by the style”.  And what’s better was that they had some stuff going on that I wasn’t expecting.  Their IIPA was wonderfully complex and had some neat herbal notes, and the stout had more dark fruit than any other I can remember.  Will their red follow in the same vein?  Let’s find out together, friends.
Now, despite the homogeneous nature of the style, I still think the soul of a Red is in its malt profile.  Those sweet, fruity notes have to just jut out, and it don’t mean butt if it ain’t got that jut.  However, we all know it’s just not as easy for it to really POP without disregarding the idea of having a hop balance.  In light of this, I simply couldn’t hold it against Coronado if they went down that road.  Readers, if you did recommend me a Red ale that really focused on having a good malt blend and remained well balanced, I would most definitely appreciate it.
I actually ordered this one on tap.  I got the pint glass at a very proper temperature; not too cold, not body-temperature warm.  There was a good finger of bubbly head, but it wasn’t retained very well.  There was a good level of lace, the sticky kind that leaves a byte of memory recording your gulp sizes down the side of the glass.  The color was, of course, amber-red.  Maybe even a Rosewood red.  It wasn’t super clear, but far from cloudy.  The aroma was the real surprise though, very resinous and piney, almost a bit like fresh (and I mean STICKY fresh) rosemary.  There is still plenty of sweet bread malt scents, but very strongly contrasted with hops.  Could this be a sign of some interesting complexity?  One hopes…
The first taste was, yet another surprise, not hop-forward!  I noted a distinct sweet toffee malt flavor before the piney, sticky hops scrunched me up.  Yes, this one is a bit of a palate painter.  It may have been the shock or the actual staying power of the hop bitter, but it took a while to get some proper tasting done with this beer.
The hop profile may not have been exactly one-note, but it was definitely played in the key of PINE.  Some citrus-y notes may have worked their way in, but were playing second fiddle.  Getting past that, the malts revealed themselves to  be a good harmonic chord of burnt sugar, toffee, and roasted malt.  Once this beer gets into its rhythm, it’s quite the crescendo of flavor!