Amber Beer: Simple, Yet Sophisticated

craft amber ale next to full class of amber beer with blue backdrop

Amber beers are known for their pretty color, toasty flavor, and supreme drinkability. They fall pretty much in the middle for hops and malt flavors, making them a great option for virtually any meal. Being a straightforward kind of brew means amber beers often get dismissed as simplistic, but this is anything but the case. Allow us to ela-beer-ate. 

What Is Amber Beer?

Amber beers are so-called because they have a reddish-gold hue. This comes from adding extra crystal or caramel malt, which also lends a signature flavor reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Hops notes can be mild-to-moderate, which gives brewers a little wiggle room regarding bitterness and the chance to infuse the beer with some citrus notes. 

How Is Amber Beer Made?

As with most beers, the type of malt used makes a huge difference in the outcome of an amber. While pale ales are generally on the hoppier side, amber ales are on the maltier end, leading to a more robust-yet-still-crisp mouthfeel. Again, however, brewers can choose to add higher amounts of hops for a flavor more reminiscent of a pale ale while still incorporating the caramel malts for toastiness and color. 

The process for making amber beer is similar to any other type of beer with a few nuances.

Yeast: “beer” could mean an ale or a lager. The type of yeast you use will determine which you are making (see below).

Malt:  the malt is what sets amber beers apart in both color and taste. Like most beers, you start with a pale malt as a base. Then, smaller amounts of crystal and caramel malt are added. The terms “crystal” and “caramel” refer to the additional roasting time these malts receive. Crystal lightly roasted to achieve a deeper color and bready flavor; caramel is roasted even longer, deepening the taste to a sweet toffee. 

Hops: despite the roasted malts claiming center stage for color, amber beers still have the chance to be moderately hop-forward. Amber ales can be strikingly similar to their pale ale cousins, with appreciable fruit, pine, and citrus notes to balance out that toasty flavor. 

Is Amber Beer the Same As A Lager?

A lager is a beer, but so is ale. And you can have an amber ale and an amber lager. The difference has to do mainly with the type of yeast you use.  Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, which do best at lower temperatures and take longer to convert sugar to alcohol. 

Ale yeasts, on the other hand, are top-fermenting yeasts that process more quickly and like warmer temperatures. 

In general, ales have a crisper, lighter flavor than ales, which are richer and more fruity. This is because top-fermenting yeast releasees more esters–the compounds that lend that citrusy, 

So, What Does Amber Beer Taste Like?

Ambers display characteristics of a medium-high to high malt count with medium to low caramel character from roasted malts. In an American amber, you’ll notice the hops lend a citrusy, fruity, and even pine flavor to balance the sweetness of the malt. If it’s an ale, it’ll be slightly richer and more heady; a lager, and you’ll get a touch more effervescence and less fruit flavor. 

Amber Ale

For EZZAMPLE, Diebolt’s Anton Francois is a French Amber Ale that is equal parts bitter and malty. The hops are sandwiched between a crisp, malt saveur and a bready fin. Voila, c’est ca, où est la bibliothèque? 

Blue can of craft amber ale
There And Back Again: journey from malt to hops to malt in every can of Anton Francois French Amber Ale. Supremely balanced, effortlessly drinkable. 

Amber Lager

Quelle coincidence, we’ve got an amber lager, too. This one is based on the English ales, which also tend to err on the amber side. We’ve infused this manly beer with Kent Golding Hops, a strain native to Britain and known for its lavender honey flavor. Six-row barley and flaked corn in the malt make this an uber-refreshing lager, while a dash of crystal malt lends color and warmth.

Red and yellow can of craft amber lager
Don’t let the label fool you. The Bolt Schlagen Amber Lager strikes a balance between boldness and delicate flavors, like lavender and honey. 

In reality, it’s difficult to pin down amber beers, since they can be jazzed up with a variety of hops. What you thought was a basic bish is actually a wild card. All we can tell you is that amber beers are extremely adaptable and work well with nearly every type of cuisine. The presence of both malt and hops means they lend themselves to rich & light, sweet & spicy, yin & yang, Donnie & Marie. We have to say, t 

Amber Beer vs Red Beers

We’ve discussed amber ale as a kind of cousin to the pale ale; but we would be remiss if we didn’t draw comparisons with Irish and Belgian reds. American amber beers contain more hops, adding the bitterness we know well to their flavor profile, while Irish red ales are the maltiest of the three. Belgian red ales are just, well, different. 

Belgian red ales, also known as Flemish or “Flanders red ales,” are uniquely flavored: they’re aged in oak to enhance the malt taste, which brings out smoother chocolate and vanilla flavors, sometimes even hinting at dark fruits like cherry, prune, raisin, or plum. To further remove themselves from the traditional red ale, the Belgians have perfected a moderately sour twist to their red beers. 

Irish red ales, being the maltiest of the three, have the lowest hop profile. Without the fruity flavors that come with hops, these beers tend to possess a sweeter, yeastier base, followed by a dry and bitter finish from the roasted malts typically used. 

Stop In For A Taste

Drop by our location on Mariposa to sample our latest beer drops along with our staples we keep in stock all year long. And be sure to request us at your favorite sipping spot–we are ramping up our keg game so we can offer our best brews on tap at a bar or restaurant near you. 

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