With the explosion in popularity of craft beer, many established craft brewers face a unique challenge. There is competition for shelf space at stores and tap lines in bars, so they need to balance making their longstanding and traditional beers while also continuing to be exciting and innovative. Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH has long been known for their canonical brews like Old Brown Dog and Robust Porter. They have also been proactive about balancing these staples with a wide range of seasonal and specialty beers, including their “big beer” series of higher ABV releases. Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale started as short batch release, but was so popular it evolved into a yearly late winter/early spring seasonal. Durty is a hoppy version of a brown ale, with the malt bill of a traditional brown ale mixed with the hoppiness of an IPA. This mixture can be difficult to work with so you need to find the right balance between the rich malts and floral hops. It is worth the risk though, when done correctly these beers can be complex and delicious. Smuttynose Durty is brewed with a mixture of chocolate, medium caramel and brown malt along with Magnum, Nugget, Chinook and CTZ hops.
Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale pours a dark brown with a mild tan head and solid carbonation. The smell is a mixture of floral hop aromas and medium to dark malts. The taste is very balanced between the malt sweetness and hop bitterness. The hop flavors are very evident, favoring the pine and floral tastes over the citrus fruit that you get from some American hops. The malts provide a great complement with notes of caramel, fresh baked bread, molasses and a touch of black coffee. There is a solid bitterness that cuts through some of the malt sweetness and at 97 IBUs it is more bitter than many IPAs. Smuttynose Durty is medium bodied and pretty easy to drink, I was shocked to find that it was 8.4% ABV. The finish starts with a touch of sweet malt and then hits with a full hoppy bite. If you like a hop-forward beer with a malty backbone, this is an exceptional example. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
For reviews of other Smuttynose beers see: