Don’t forget about the brown

“We don’t get many people asking about brown ales,”

a liquor store salesperson says to me when I tell him what I’m looking for. Sadly, I’m not surprised—brown ales tend to be overlooked by many a craft beer drinker, myself included. I can’t pinpoint the reason exactly, but it’s most likely because they’re thought of as, well, boring—not as hoppy as a pale ale, not as silky as a stout. The brown ale did, at least, find a slice of the spotlight recently when the White House released the homebrew recipe for its White House Honey Brown Ale.

A broad term, “brown ale,” can cover a variety of flavors and origins, from the classic English take to a Belgian Oud Bruin. For the purpose of this piece, I focus on English or English-style brown ales, which tend to be around 5 percent ABV, lightly hopped and with a slight malty sweetness, and American brown ales, which are often stronger (4-6 percent or more ABV), hoppier, and drier.

While one of the most versatile beers to match with a meal, brown ales pair especially well with hearty fare like burgers, steak, and stews, as well as strong aged cheeses and seasonal vegetable roasts.

This then, is a tribute to the well-deserving brown ale: dependable, drinkable, and an ideal style to stock your fridge with as the digits drop.

Saint Boltoph’s Town
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
5.9% ABV

Pretty Things classify St. Boltoph’s (Boston’s
patron saint) as a Yorkshire dark brown ale—
creamy and smooth in texture, nutty and malty
in aroma, and rich in taste with a dry finish.

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
Samuel Smith Old Brewery
5.0% ABV

Samuel Smith’s offers a world-class brown ale that’s both
refreshing and flavorful. Taste and aroma overlap, with
notes of fruit, nuts, and caramel, and it pours a gorgeous
reddish mahogany. 

Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Rogue Ales
6.2% ABV

Ahoy, Nutella-aholics: This is your beer. You
better believe it’s nutty, in taste and aroma,
with hints of chocolate and coffee. Just don’t
try spreading it on toast.

Old Brown Dog
Smuttynose Brewing Co.
6.7% ABV

New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing makes one of the finest examples of an American brown ale, malty and sweet, with notes of dark fruit. This old dog doesn’t need any new tricks. 

Sixpoint Brewery
6.0% ABV

You can always depend on Sixpoint for your
dose of hops, and Brownstone is no different,
with a hoppier than usual take on the style.
Expect light roastiness and caramel notes too.

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
5.5% ABV

A dark reddish brown (like tumbling leaves?), Sierra
Nevada’s fall seasonal incites autumn lust. It’s rich and
roasty, but with a lighter body and slight hop bitterness.


Heather's just here for the beer.

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