«Beergasm» is written by Lars Gjessing and Bianca Handley.
Hops are in fashion and sours are hipsters, and compared to these bold and overwhelming flavours, many people forget Brown Ales. But they are missing out, because Brown Ales can be just as innovative, tasty and complex.
As you might tell from the name, brown ales are discerned by colour rather than by region, ingredients or historical methods of production. But defining a beer by its colour is like judging a book by its cover. What really differentiates the vast amounts of beer brown ales, is the country and region of origin. Germany, Belgium, the U.S and England all have a history of making brown ales. Ranging from English mild to robust porters, from American brown to India brown and from abbey bruins to oude bruins
The term, Brown Ale, was first used by brewers in London in the late 17th century. In those days, brown ales were only slightly hopped, and were brewed mostly from brown malt. Improvements in malting technology led to the development of pale base malts with better yields, this led to a decline in the use of dark specialty malts such as brown malt. This caused the brown ales in the 18th century to lose some of their historical backbone and flavours.
Brown ale was resurrected by the production of Manns Brown ale in England in 1902. A Brown Ale I’m sure you’ve all heard of and was released in 1925 is the Newcastle Brown Ale, which set the stage for the success and future popularity of the style. With the growth of craft beer worldwide, there have been many variations on the traditional brown ale recipes.
English Style Brown Ale: A wide-ranging category with different interpretations possible, ranging from lighter-coloured to hoppy to deeper, darker, and caramel-focused. Very little hop flavour and a medium body of maltiness, but without the roasted flavours characteristic of a porter.
Brown Porter: These beers are medium to dark brown in colour, but they are light bodied with low sweetness and lots of caramel and chocolate notes.
American-Style Brown Ale: These beers tend to be darker in colour from deep copper to brown. This gives them more caramel and chocolate flavours, but what makes them unique is their high hop flavour and hop bitterness. American or New World hops gives the beer a citrusy, fruity or tropical flavours. The American style tends to use American yeast which give the beer a drier finish while the British Ales tend to use British yeast which emphasizes the malty characteristics.
Brown ale is well known as the most food friendly style of beer. The malty and toasty flavours pair well with a variety of foods from sushi to spicy Mexican food. So next time you’re out at dinner or you’re hosting a dinner party, have a brown ale!
Recommendations of the month
The beer pours out a rich dark copper brown. It smells of chocolate and citrus with a hint of nuttiness. Upon drinking, the flavours of caramel and chocolate hit the tongue first followed by grapefruit hoppiness and finishes dry. It’s a classic, all-malt, single-hop American brown ale.
Strong malty aroma but with a medium sweetness that covers the alcohol. The bitterness is distinct but pleasantly balanced. Try it with cheese!