Tag Archives: Brown Ale

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2016 Part 1

Last year Sierra Nevada launched Beer Camp, a series of beer festivals in different cities across the country. As part of this celebration they brewed 12 collaboration beers each one with a different brewer in a Beer Camp host city. The 12 beers were sold as a 12-pack, which sold out incredibly quickly around here so I never got a chance to try it. The reviews I read all told a pretty similar tale, the beers were OK but expectations were much higher considering the names on the bottles. This year Sierra Nevada is doing a similar touring beer festival, but the 12 pack is slightly different, it features 6 different beers that are each a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and 5 breweries in a particular region of the country. I was able to grab a twelve pack and spent my weekend sampling a critiquing each of the beers, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. I’ll give my thoughts on three today and then do the other three and a summary tomorrow.

Sierra Nevada Family ValuesFamily Values Imperial Brown Ale: Represents the Midwest in collaboration with Dark Horse, Half Acre, Perennial, Schell’s and Sun King. This is a flavorful and very malt forward brown ale brewed with wild rice, oats, cocoa nibs and honey sourced from Midwestern states. It’s full bodied and plenty of chocolate, caramel and toasted bread flavor, and packs some punch at 8.5% ABV. There are just enough grassy/earthy hops to keep the beer from being overly sweet, and it drinks very easy for a bigger beer. Brown ales aren’t my favorite style but I really enjoyed this beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sierra Nevada Sweet Sunny SouthSweet Sunny South Southern Table Beer: Represents the South in collaboration with Austin Beerworks, Bayou Teche, Creature Comforts, Funky Buddha and Wicked Weed. Again the focus is local ingredients in this saison brewed with corn grits, black tea, honeysuckle, peach, papaya, guava and prickly pear. The adjunct ingredients lead the flvor here, especially the peach, papaya and guava along with a little tea. This is complemented by the fruity hops which add some orange, lemon and grape notes. The beer is light and refreshing and sessionable at 4.9% ABV. My only criticism is that I don’t get much of that distinct yeasty flavor that I expect from a saison, if you’d told me this was an APA I would have believed you. Still, a very nice offering for summer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sierra Nevada West LatitudeWest Latitude Session Rye: Represents Northern California in collaboration with Bear Republic, Faction, Mad River, Magnolia and Maui Brewing. A rye ale brewed with a solid dose of New World hops along with hibiscus. First and foremost, it is kind of disingenuous to call this a session beer at 5.5% ABV, the highest “limit” I’ve seen for session beers is 5%. I was also really surprised by how dark this beer was, not what I expected in a rye ale. That being said, the beer is delicious, spicy rye, some roasted malt barley and midnight wheat, fruity hops and hibiscus all come together to make a beer that is complex and delicious. This was one of my personal favorites in the sampler, I think there was one beer I liked slightly better, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out which one! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.

 

Down The Road Hooligan Nut Brown

Between getting older, drinking less and lack of sleep (the final two directly related to the birth of my son) I have become kind of a lightweight with respect to my alcohol tolerance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and really doesn’t effect me very often, I just have to be more careful monitoring my intake, especially when I crack a beer earlier in the day. I try to keep a selection of lower alcohol beer around for situations like this Saturday, when the Pats played in the afternoon and I opened my first beer before kickoff. This is no problem in the summer, with the huge selection of low ABV pilsners, pale ales and session IPAs, but it can be a challenge in the fall and winter months when I prefer darker and maltier offerings. One style that I’ve come around on recently are brown ales, especially the British style “mild ales” that are lower in alcohol than many bolder (and boozier) American varieties. The mild brown ale seems to be making a little bit of a comeback, it was nearly non-existent in the US but I’ve seen a few recent local examples. One is Hooligan Nut Brown, the sessionable brown ale from Down The Road Brewery. Hooligan is named in honor of Hedley Kow, featured on the bottle art, a mischievous spirit known for shape-shifting and playing tricks on people. Down The Road Hooligan Nut Brown is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

Down The Road HooliganDown The Road Hooligan Nut Brown pours clear brown with a small off-white head. The scent features the sweet maltiness you expect from the style. There is plenty of malt flavor, with notes of caramel, biscuits, brown sugar and honey, but the beer isn’t overly sweet. Some subtle hops add just enough earthy flavor and balance while staying true to the style. The beer is medium bodied and drinks very smooth, sessionable at 4.5% ABV. The finish is clean with just a touch of lingering malt flavor. Hooligan Nut Brown is a really nice mild-style brown ale, plenty of flavor but easy to drink and lower alcohol. I would like to see a few more beers of this type on the market and will make this a mainstay during the colder months. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Down The Road Reviews:

Down The Road Rasenmaher KolschDown The Road Pukwudgie Pale Ale

Foley Brothers Maple Brown

A couple weeks ago I expressed some frustration in the lack of style diversity when breweries introduce their product to a new market. It seemed like every brewer leads off with their IPA or some IPA variant. I understand the popularity of the style but it leads to a saturation of IPAs and a lack of style diversity on the shelves of bottle shops. I guess I owe a thank you to Foley Brothers Brewing out of Brandon, Vermont for leading off with Maple Brown, their brown ale brewed with maple syrup. For many decades maple syrup was probably the first thing that came to mind when you thought of a food or drink from Vermont (although I personally have a soft spot for Maine maple syrup being a native Mainer). Now I think the amazing brewing scene in Vermont has elevated beer into one of the most recognizable products from the state. I guess it makes sense for a brewery from Vermont to use maple syrup in their beer, and a malty brown ale seems like the perfect style to complement the sweet syrup. Foley Brothers Maple Brown is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles. I have heard many positive things about Foley Brothers and I was excited to learn more about the brewery, but I have one minor quibble. Every brewery should really have a website nowadays, especially by the time they are bottling and expanding distribution and I couldn’t find one for Foley Brothers yet.

Foley Brothers Maple Brown pours a deep brown with a small tan head. The scent is a mixture of roasted malts and a little sugary sweetness. The taste is very malt forward, notes of caramel, whole grain bread, brown sugar and honey. You also get hints of maple syrup, not overly strong but contributing a nice complement to the malt flavors. The hops are muted, as you would expect from the style, but keep the beer from being cloying. The beer is medium bodied, perfect for cooler weather, and packs some serious punch at 7.9% ABV. You don’t taste the booze at all though, the beer goes down very smooth. Brown ales aren’t always my favorite style, but they are great fall beers and a nice way to mix it up, and this is a very good version. I’ll definitely be checking out more Foley Brothers beers in the near future. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

The Shed Profanity Ale

There is a lot of talk recently about mergers and acquisitions involving major players in the beer market. Some of the most popular independent brewers in the US have sold parts of their companies to large international conglomerates. While there are obvious pros and cons to these types of deals (which I will get into in a future post), there are also examples of smaller breweries buying labels or merging with other small breweries. A good example is The Shed brewery. The Shed was a Vermont staple for years, serving hard cider and beer to area residents. In 2011 Otter Creek acquired The Shed Brewery label when the former owners decided to close, and they continued producing their flagship Mountain Ale and IPA. Otter Creek is undergoing a bit of a renaissance, their new line of beers has been incredibly well received. It makes sense that this would lead to the development of new beers in some of their other lines, and one of the first is The Shed Profanity Ale. Profanity Ale (which is an awesome name by the way, with all of the name competition how was that one not taken?) is a hoppy version of a traditional brown ale. When done correctly hoppy amber/brown ales, can be a delicious mix of hop flavor and aroma with full malt body, great beers for cooler fall weather. Profanity Ale is the newest addition to the Shed’s year-round lineup, it is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

The Shed Profanity AleThe Shed Profanity Ale pours a deep brown with a moderate cream colored head. The scent is mostly floral and piney hops, along with a touch of roasted barley. The beer is hop forward to start, notes of cut grass, lemon, resin and earth along with a solid bitter kick. This is complemented by a full malt body, hints of caramel, roasted nuts and fresh baked bread. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth, but packs a little punch at 6.8% ABV. The finish is crisp with a little lingering mixture of bitter hops and sweet malt on the tongue. The Shed Profanity Ale is a perfect beer to drink as the days start to cool down, plenty of hop flavor but more body than the IPAs that dominate the market. You can be f@#%ing sure I’ll be pounding a few more pints soon! Hoppy boston score: 4.25/5.

Slumbrew Attic and Eaves

I mentioned at the beginning of the fall that I had a little hop burn-out. I love IPAs but I needed a little break from the big bitter beers. While I’ve still sampled the occasional hop-bomb, my focus this fall has been on malt forward lagers along with a few ales. One style that catches a lot of flak is the brown ale. Brown ales have been a staple of British brewing for centuries, and were a common style during the early days of the American craft brewing movement. The development of the ultra hoppy West Coast style IPA was a major factor in the ascent of the craft beer industry in the US, and many hopheads are not a fan of some milder malt-forward styles like brown ales. It is unfortunate, because there are many breweries that make tasty versions of the style. I’ll admit that brown ales aren’t usually my first choice if I go to a new brewery I’m probably starting with their IPA, porter, or a Belgian style. That being said, I do like the occasional brown, especially in the fall when I want a more hearty brew. Slumbrew apparently agrees. For the last few years their fall seasonal has been their take on the brown ale, named Attic and Eaves. Slumbrew brews Attic and Eaves with an assortment of roasted grains along with Cascade and Fuggles hops. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers during the fall season.

Slumbrew Attic and EavesSlumbrew Attic and Eaves pours a chocolate brown with a small off-white head. The scent is mild, with some roasted malts at the forefront. The malts dominate the flavor, notes of toasted grain, milk chocolate, toffee, honey and roasted nuts. There is a bit of hoppiness, touches of earth, pine and lemon with a little bite in the finish. The beer is medium bodied and drinkable so it hides the 7.5% ABV very well. The finish is clean with just a hint of malt sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a very solid version of a brown ale, complex malty flavors with enough hops for balance. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Slumbrew Reviews:

Slumbrew Island Day, Slumbrew Snow Angel, Slumbrew Trekker Trippel, Slumbrew Sittin’ on Hop of the World

Long Trail Harvest Barn Ale

This weekend I did a bit of a stock up run at Craft Beer Cellar in Newton, and I noticed that many breweries were swapping out their fall seasonals for winter beers. This is actually reasonable, November is close enough to winter to justify starting this transition, this is nothing like pumpkin beers showing up on store shelves in July. With winter seasonals on the way in I’ll try to wrap up my reviews of fall beers over the next week or so. Long Trail Brewing Company in Vermont releases a brown ale called Harvest Barn Ale every fall. Brown ales have never been my favorite style, but the medium to full body and solid malt sweetness nicely complements the brisk weather of the fall. Harvest is brewed with the addition of one of Vermont’s signature products, maple syrup, which adds a little residual sweetness and helps the malty flavor of the beer sing. Long Trail Harvest is available in 12 oz. bottles and on draft during what’s left of the fall season.

Long Trail HarvestLong Trail Harvest Barn Ale pours a clear deep brown with a mild off-white head. The scent is a mixture of brown sugar with a little floral hop kick. The taste is led off by a full complement of malt, notes of caramel, whole grain bread, toasted barley and maple syrup. This is balanced by just a hint of hops, some earthy and woodsy flavors with a touch of bitterness. The beer is very drinkable, medium bodied with a solid mouthfeel and a crisp finish that leaves a bit of malty sweetness on the tongue. At 4.4% ABV it is a session beer by most definitions, something you don’t typically find in a malty brown ale. Long Trail Harvest is a very well done fall beer, easy to drink but enough body to hold up to the chilly weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. Grab a pint before the last of the fall beers are edged out by winter ales and snow covers everything! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Long Trail Reviews:

Long Trail Limbo, Long Trail Ramble, Long Trail Double Bag

Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale

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 DurtySmuttynose 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:

Smuttynose Robust Porter

Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA