Tag Archive: Brown Ale


White Frontier: Northern Monk: Garage: Whiplash: Slow Runnings (Switzerland: Brown Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large creamy brown bubbled head.

Nose: Roasted, nutty character. Coffee cake. Light lactose. Subtle toffee.

Body: Good, lightly creamy, mouthfeel. Cashew nuts and green flecks from the shell. Slight chalk. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Charcoal touch meets bitterness. Cashew nuts. Nutty bitterness. Roasted character. Coffee cake. Slight malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This is pretty roasted, leaning heavily on that for the character rather than going either towards a sweeter or lightly sour brown ale style. It seems to be walking the middle ground shall we say. So, does it work well?

The mouthfeel is slightly creamy, along with a touch of lactose to creamy flavour, which gives a decent weight and feel for the 4% abv without getting too heavy. So the basics are down pat.

Flavour-wise, apart from the roasted, nutty flavours, it keeps to the more savoury or bitter rounding notes – subtle cocoa and coffee cake for example. There’s a few unwelcome rough elements amidst that, including a kind of charred, charcoal note at times in the finish, but generally it is solid.

So solid, but not really standout – I think the problem is that for everything apart from the roasted character it feels slightly indistinct. There is flavour, but not well defined. It is relying in the nice feel and general gist of the flavours to get along, but it doesn’t give anything for you to really get into.

Decent enough but pretty middle of the road. I’m still glad I had it as you don’t see as many new brown ales these days, at least in my experience, but it isn’t one to draw new people to the style.

Background: Ok, new brewery on me – White Frontier (and one of their collaborators – Whiplash) – so that caught my eye. I don’t see many coming out from Switzerland. Got a lot of trust for Garage and Northern Monk though, so that made me confident I was in safe hands. In fact, that is a lot of collaborators on one beer! You don’t see many craft brown ales, so that caught my eyes as well. So a lot of interest going in. Was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with some lighter indie to pop tunes for this – Honeyblood – Babes Never Die.

Panda Brew: 3B Brown Bear Beer Brown Ale (China: Brown Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red brown. Large yellow brown head.

Nose: Dry and nutty. Sweet pecan pie. Malt chocolate.

Body: Nutty with slight nut oils. Sweet pecan pie. Malt chocolate.

Body: Nut oils. Moderate robust bitterness. Walnuts. Pecan pie and brown sugar.

Conclusion: The shout of “boring brown beer” Is a common refrain (and also 3Bs, akin to this beer’s name), however, while this beer does not have the widest range, I would be very hard pressed to call it a boring beer.

This is a dry delivered, nut dominated ale that keeps the balance between the dry crushed nuts style – akin to crushed dry roasted peanuts in a way – and the sweet pecan style counterpoints. The drier notes match the feel of the base well, and uses the sweeter notes as high points to keep it from getting leaden. It feels like it is aiming for a sessionable Brown ale, admittedly at slighter thicker body, and of course higher abv that that would suggest. The dryness makes it a very sippable beer early on, and warmth brings out a touch of brown sugar sweetness to accentuate the pecan styled notes.

It doesn’t rate as a must have beer – almost all the complexity is in the range of nuttiness it has, and it deals in only slight malt chocolate notes rounding it out – however due to its simple goals it manages to polish them well, and actually holds up well against western attempts to reinvent the brown ale as a craft beer. It doesn’t get lost in uber hopping, or trying to make the style radically different from its base, just does the basic idea with a more nutty and and a bit drier.

There is legs left in this oft overlooked style, and it seems China, or at least Panda Brew have seen that. Needs a bit more work to make a must have beer, but this seems a nice route to go.

Background: First beer notes from China holiday! This one, actually a beer drunk before I had even checked in. I had left my bags at the hotel, until I could check in that afternoon, then wandered Beijing. Then got lost. On a straight road. No seriously. I had entered a Hyper-mart for a quick snack, then didn’t realise I had wandered out of a different exit on a street at a right angle to the one I had come in on. Oops. Anyway, well and truly lost I was saved when I came across Panda brew brewpub. I had been planning to hit them later, so had printed out a map showing how to get to them from the hotel, so could follow that backwards. How lucky! Anyway, a Panda themed brewpub, with very friendly staff who had some English language knowledge which was very helpful for me. I decided to go for their Brown ale – it is an oft overlooked style by the craft scene, so thought it would be an interesting pick.


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Autumn (England: Brown Ale: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Moderate sized, short lasting brown to grey head.

Nose: Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Aniseed. Cinnamon. Slight wet twigs.

Body: Very lightly tart. Malt chocolate. Hazelnuts. Milky coffee. Figs. Praline. Slight plums as it warms. Tobacco.

Finish: Walnut cake. Malt chocolate. Coffee cake. Sultanas. Slight wet twigs. Figs. Port. Apples. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Once again Wild Beer Co’s seasonal range seems to get going as we hit the darker months, and with it the darker beers.

Despite the special twist of this beer being the foraged figs added, it is not hugely fig dominant – but they do their part. Instead the base brown ale does most of the heavy lifting here. The usual malt chocolate character is there, but here it is delivered in a nuttier fashion resulting in praline like flavours dominating the beer. It does feel slightly light in mouthfeel though – there is a slight tartness to the beer, probably brought in by the foraged ingredients, which seems to also slightly thin the beer. It isn’t a terrible trade off – you do get light apple notes beneath the darker figs and plum fruits, which balances out the flavour – but it is a slight minor off point.

The balance show in the mediating between the heavier tobacco notes up front, and the smoother barrel ageing influenced vanilla notes at the back, all resulting in a very comprehensive ranged brown ale. Frankly this is a beer that puts all that “Boring brown ale” stuff in its place.

If it managed to take the light tartness without the hit to the texture then this would have been perfect. As is it is a solidly complex brown ale that uses the special ingredients subtly and well. You can do a lot worse than that.

Background: Now this, the third release of Wild Beer Co which is made using locally foraged items, really caught my attention. For one thing its base beer is a brown ale, a nice style, oft accused of being boring, and not used enough these days. Next up is the special elements foraged – figs, fig leaves and fig branches. I’m a big figs fan, so that sounded right up my street. Finally, this has been aged in bourbon casks, which should give a bit extra smoothness and flavour. Overall something I was looking forwards to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah. Still just basically going on a metal kick for drinking times.

Brewdog Hopped-Up Brown

Brewdog: Hopped-Up Brown Ale (Scotland: Brown Ale: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red to brown. Brown moderate sized creamy bubbled head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Malt loaf. Gooseberry. Very milky coffee. Cherry. Roasted air. Peach.

Body: Roasted and nutty. Malt chocolate. Nutella. Chocolate toffee. Light cherries. Fresh. Vaguely kiwi styling and passion fruit. Peach.

Finish: Nutella. Roasted rough hop character and some bitterness. Nuts. Fresh citrus touched air. Lime yogurt.

Conclusion: The humble brown ale – interpreted here with some sweet smooth chocolate styling in the USA style, instead of the often just slightly sour touched refreshing UK take. As the name states, the base beer is pretty hopped up, giving a rough nutty character that mixes with the chocolate to give a thick Nutella style.

At this point I was ready to call the beer a very solid base to be built from if they chose to take on the prototype; The fresher notes of the aroma didn’t really come through in the body, which disappointed me. it was still solid as hell, mixing thicker chocolate smoothness with rough hops – just enough bitterness and sweetness, but it felt like it could offer more than that with work.

I was wrong to doubt it. As it warmed first a soft kiwi note came out, then fresher peach and other fruit notes; A gentle backing that paid off the promise of the aroma. Together it made for the perfect balance of malt and hop character in bitterness, flavour and mouthfeel. The fruit comes out then recedes back again, refreshing then letting the sweet malt do its job.

I still have a soft spot for the UK more refreshing take, but as a USA style take this is damn near perfect. Give us this as a regular release please, it deserves it.

Background: Ohh, I had missed that they had put some extra details on these bottled. 85 IBU and 1.063 OG. Extra info is always good. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog, though my views on them tend to be complicated. Drunk while listening to a mix of Akala and Napalm Death. No, I don’t think I could have gone for two more different styles if I tried. Another of this year’s Brewdog prototypes, which have actually been pretty solid so far.

Banff Ave Highline Magazine Naked Nut Brown Ale

Banff Ave Brewing: Highline Magazine Naked Nut Brown Ale (Canada: Brown Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep brown with a thin off white head that leaves lace.

Nose: Cashew nuts and brown sugar. Malt chocolate. Nutella and Belgian chocolate.

Body: Hazelnuts. Low level bitterness. Lightly chalky texture. Milky coffee. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Lightly earthy. Hazelnuts and a very light burnt wood touch. Nutella. Brown sugar touch.

Conclusion: Brown ales from around the world unite! I find brown ales interesting (a phrases very little said) as there is such a big difference between the UK real ale interpretation of the style, and the USA craft interpretation – and yet they are still very noticeable the same style.

This definitely is geared more towards the American interpretation than the sometimes just lightly sour and refreshing UK take – however that sweetness is reined in, giving room for a far more nutty and roasted character than most.

The nose is the sweetest part of it, with real full on Nutella and hints of brown sugar. It entices you in, but if the entire beer had been like that it would have been off-puttingly sickly sweet.

The body then smartly takes it towards a much more roasted way, with the slight chalk texture giving it a nice rough edged feel in the mouth. Here the beer makes itself known as much by feel as it does by taste, roasted and kicking – but backed by the malt chocolate and milky coffee – the sweet Nutella is there but taken down a notch to make it manageable.

The finish keeps the roasted, but brings back up the sweetness, slowly revealing itself as the roasted character fades out. It treads a fine line between the two characteristics to round it off nicely.

Overall this is a really balanced brown ale. Able to push heavier sweet notes and then pull back from it when it needs to. A very sessionale brown, for the abv, and very enjoyable.

Background: Ok, a quick google tells me Highline Magazine is a Canadian magazine. Apart from that I’m not sure what the relevance is. Drunk at the Brewpub in Banff while hiding from the sun, again. The beer there is dispensed straight from the beer tanks, which is kind of as fresh as you can get. Which is cool. Also this is 12 IBU – The Canadian craft beer scene seems all about telling you info about the beer, including IBU, which is also cool. Banff Ave also have an absolutely brilliant Ella hopped Double IPA, like one of my favourite beers level good. I didn’t have a chance to head back to do tasting notes, but if you are around check it out. It is awesome. Also thanks to the staff in general for being awesome, and also for letting me into the brew area to take some photos.

Banff Ave Brewing Equipment

Weird Beard Boring Brown Beer Bourbon Barrel Aged

Weird Beard: Bourbon Barrel Boring Brown Beer (England: Brown Ale: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark brown. Moderate beige wet bubbled head.

Nose: Citrus fresh. Roasted nuts. Malt. Sourdough. Dried apricot.

Body: Vanilla. Roasted nuts. Kiwi. Cherries. Malt chocolate. mint leafs and dough. Citrus edge. Slight alcohol burn on swallow. Toffee.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Spirit air. Bitter and charring. Prickly tingle. Bitter hops. Toffee.

Conclusion: I am a sucker for a bit of tongue in cheek. *rereads first line* Maybe I should rewrite that…nah it’ll be ok. Anyway, a barrel aged “Boring Brown Beer” that has to be…

Eh, ok, kind of dull.

Ok, that was harsh. What we have here is a brown ale. I’ll call it an American style brown ale as it seems to lean more to the malt chocolate interpretation over the slightly refreshing UK fare. The base style has been enhanced with a few soft vanilla oak aged notes, thought it doesn’t seem to be a heavy influence. The bigger alteration is the large infusion of hop bitterness. The roasted nut style it has calls a bit back to the UK style, but mainly I see USA influence.

It is ok, but I think they made a mistake with the base beer bitterness being a bit high. I get a lot of the generic hop bitterness character in the main play, but the more interesting notes are lost out at the edges.

Hmm again maybe a bit harsh there, there is a sort of mint leaf prickle very subtly done low down in the beer, and the hops do give a bit of citrus and kiwi at the edges, or so it seems. They aren’t very well pushed so it is hard to say. I think because they threw everything and the kitchen sink at the beer, I can but feel disappointed that it us just ok. Not actually really dull, but in no way lives up to its idea.

It is an ok brown ale, a bit spirity in the finish, and some of the flavours don’t mesh, but ok. There is a kind of sour dough element that just doesn’t work here, but the rest mainly holds up. Overall, probably not really worth grabbing I would say. Not bad, but you can easily find better. I still love the idea though.

Background: Ok I bought this because of the name. Ok, and because it sounded cool. Huge IBU, bourbon aged, chinook hop brown ale. Sounded fun. I really should get around to reviewing Weird Beard’s “Little Things That Kill”, which is an awesome beer. So awesome I tend not to wait until I am in a reviewing mood before drinking it. Anyway, trivia! I bumped into Bryan Spooner from Weird Beard at GBBF once. My attempts to subtly work out if he was who I thought he was resulted in him thinking I was hitting on him. So, that’s my meet the brewers tale of the day. Oh, the heat wave was back while I drunk this. Which is not nice. Drunk while listening to “Suffer” And “Recipe for Hate” from Bad Religion. “Recipe for Hate” is still probably my favourite album of BRs. Oh, also this was bought at Independent Spirit.

C4 Double Coffee Brown
8 Wired: C4 Double Coffee Brown Ale (New Zealand: Brown Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut red brown. Moderate coffee coloured large bubbled head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Massive rich coffee and milky coffee. Creamy. Shortbread. Slight cheese puffs.

Body: Rich rounded coffee mixes with bitter coffee. Big hazelnuts. Bitter chocolate. Some milky chocolate. Slight cheese yeastiness. Kiwi and grapes in the coffee.

Finish: Very bitter coffee. Roasted nuts. Bitter chocolate. Slight mature cheese dusting. Kiwi fruit. Vanilla.

Conclusion: If you have looked through the notes above you may have noticed that I have basically just been listing coffee and chocolate, with whatever qualifying adjectives I can find. Pretty much all the flavours come from those two root elements, but describing it as such really doesn’t do the beer justice. In the style of Beer Geek Brunch Weasel the coffee is an element distinct in itself that can be dissected and analysed as much as the beer can.

There is a fruitiness to the coffee, subtle vanilla notes to the bitter chocolate. Rich and rounded they are backed by the understated base beer which adds nuttiness and a very slight note of mature cheese, an almost yeasty feel that is texture more than anything else.

I am very impressed by how they do this, the brown ale part of it is much closer to the American interpretation of the style than the tarter UK take. It is sweet, frothy and very malty and doesn’t have the acidic touch you can get in the UK.

It all comes together in a way than means that the small number of elements have a fractal complexity below and a luxurious style. It is utterly smooth and just builds to a wonderful symphony of flavour.

I wish I had enough experience of coffee to describe it better. So instead I will concentrate on that odd, very light cheese like element that starts out intriguing and becomes a vital element. It is a yeastiness style around which the coffee builds and this means that the beer character is kept intact so you don’t just feel you are drinking alcohol coffee. Overall this is a show of excellence in a crowded coffee beer market.

I love this beer.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer selection, this sounded a bit special. Coffee has been used in a lot of imperial stouts, but not so often in the oft overlooked Brown ale to my knowledge. 8 Wired have done pretty solid by me so far, so I put in some Nine Inch Nails and broke this open.

Mashtag

Brewdog: #Mashtag (Scotland: Brown Ale: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark chestnut red to brown. Moderate beige froth.

Nose; Crushed peanuts. Roasted character. Bubblegum. Kiwi touch.

Body: Big roasted malt. Nuts. Fruitcake and raisins. Kiwi. Juicy grapes. Very smooth. Sweet chocolate.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Lemongrass. Peanuts and dry roasted peanuts. Light liquorice. Kiwi again.

Conclusion: So, democracy, the worst of all systems, except for the other ones we have tried. How did it do this time?

Very smoothly, texture wise at least. There are rough roasted edges but the centre is slick malted chocolate in feel and flavour.  For the hazelnuts used in making? Well there is a distinct nuttiness, but not huge and I would probably call it more peanuts myself. Then again I don’t claim to be a nut expert (or any kind of expert really) so take that with a pinch of salt.  The nuts are subtle and roasted on the aroma, dry and laden in the finish, and poking through at the edges in the body.

What I did find intriguing is below the evident malt an nut flavours there is a real juiciness to the beer. It’s hard to pin down but if I hadn’t to make a claim I would say it is like a subtle mix of kiwi and grape touches. Never above the malt, but riding around underneath. The main part is the juiciness which helps keep the nuts from being too drying.

As a beer it keeps to a few main notes, malt, light nuts and juiciness, with variants of expression. However it does express them in a very satisfying manner. Smooth, big in flavour but easy to drink. Dangerously easy to drink for the abv.

Ok. I’ll give democracy this one. It is nice.

Background: Decided by public vote, including the eponymous hashtag “mashtag”. This beer is a 7.5% abv brown ale made with NZ hops and aged on hazelnuts and oak chips. I would like to point out nearly every vote went against my choice. I will however try not to hold that against the beer. I started with the beer pretty heavily chilled down, so took my time with it. The weekday heat gave it a good chance to warm up and experiment with the range of flavour. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Caramel Salt Brodies

Brodies: Caramel Salt Beer (England: Brown Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy sediment filled brown. Moderate creamy slightly browned head. Lots of suds left by the head.

Nose: Toffee doughnuts. Glazes. Honey coated peanuts. Coffee dust.

Body: Smooth texture. Sweet caramel dominates. Pretzels. Salt. Doughnuts. Quite bitter, Condensed cream. Sickly sweet. Raisins.

Finish: Salt. Fudge. Brown bread. Bitter. Pretzels.

Conclusion:  There are good beers. Bad Beers. Beers that you drink for the experience, and beers that live up to their names. This is at the very least the latter two.

Very thick textured and sickly sweet. That caramel and salt are unmistakable, calling both to toffee doughnuts and salted pretzels. An odd mix of quite bready products with sweet and salt variants. There has been some debate over how salted this is. To me it was quite prevalent, especially in the finish. To my friends it was a subtle note. Maybe I’m just very sensitive to salt. Any which way the caramel by far dominates of the two elements.

The flavour levels you get in this are, if anything, slightly too big. When it is sweet it is sickly, the salt is shaken loosely over and dries in the finish. It is quite unlike a beer I have tried before. I had to take my time, to decide if it was a good beer or a bad beer that just happened to be very interesting.

While I was deciding my friend and I had a short debate on if the doughnuts here more resembled Thornton’s Toffee in Doughnuts or Krispy Kreme. It was quickly decided. Krispy Kreme styled sickly sweet all the way.

So, with that digression out of the way I returned to. Is it a good beer?

For a half I decided it is the sweet bready delight.  The unique flavours lean just on the right side of manageable and it doesn’t hold anything back.  For a full pint, I don’t think I could manage that.

Frankly, grab a half, its character is unique, thick and lovely. You wont regret it.

Background; I admit, I looked up the beer style for this one as I had no sodding idea.  Drunk at the Brodies Easter Bash in London. It was a friends Birthday and so I was down and taking the chance to enjoy the massive range of beers they had on that night. I drank a good few but only got the chance to review but a fraction. So a Caramel Salt Beer huh. You knew I had to at least try it. I am becoming quite the fan of Brodies, their massive range of beers, very cheap prices at their home pub, wild experimentation and high quality make them a good choice.

CIMG2254

Alesmith: Nut Brown English Style Ale (USA: Brown Ale: 5.25% ABV)

Visual: Brown with red edges. Large sudden coffee froth head.

Nose: Dry oats. Light bitterness. Crushed leaves. Vanilla and cocoa dust.

Body: Nice moderate bitterness. Nutty. Red wine touches. Slightly chalky. Cherry hint and some fruitcake. Malt chocolate. Liquorice.

Finish: Bitter. Milky chocolate. Praline. Nutty. Chalk. Vanilla.

Conclusion: English Style, yeah, we have style! So much so people emulate our style! Woo. I’m reaching a bit there I think..

So a) Is it “English Style” and b) Much more importantly, is it any good and sod the style?. Good questions. Mainly because I came up with them so I would say that.

So

a) It is reasonably close, a higher abv than most English Brown Ales, but it has a similar base malt character and a moderate nuttiness. I’m guessing CAMRA wouldn’t consider it real ale and so it doesn’t have one of the quintessential traditional characteristics, but sod it I’m not too bothered on that. What it does lack which I consider important is that dry and slightly sour tingle that I do like in the best English Brown Ales. Its an element that makes them very refreshing and is missed here.

So, b) yeah, it’s pretty nice. A bit of fruitcake and chocolate sweetness, a bit of praline and good nuttiness. Easy to drink, quite soothing. The Japanese take, Angry Boy Brown Ale, is better for my money. A bit more out there and that makes it more fun.  This one is more authentic but less sheer awesome.

So this is a half way point, not entirely authentic, not entirely new. At a lower ABV I would find it sessionable on toast  (metaphorically of course, not really on toast. I think) and really enjoy it for it.  As it is the beer seems to suit going alongside a traditional beer and Yorkshire pudding meal. The flavours sit heavier due to the lack of tartness so would suit the heavier meal in my mind. Still a beer to go with  beef and Yorkshire puds that’s authentic enough for me.

It is good. Balanced nuttiness and malt chocolate flavour and easy to drink. With a bit of tartness it would have been great, as is I can still definitely find time to relax with it. Pretty nice.

Background: Alesmith, a brewery with a massive reputation, and one whose beers I enjoy. However with the exception of Old Numbskull I don’t quite see why people rate them so highly. They have been good, but not world best for the most part. Still, they have been quality enough that I never mind trying a few more of them. Continuing my punk retrospective to my youth I drank this while listening to Offspring: Americana. In my opinion their best, and last good, album even though two of the singles from it were utterly atrocious in both songwriting and intent.

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