As part of our ongoing commitment to craft beer discussion, Brew in Review wants to go deeper into beer styles. Some of this has been touched on in our Conversion Beers and our Naming Conventions articles, but these style pieces go deeper into a specific style.
This article is about the brown ale. Go here for our full list of brown ale beer reviews.
The Brown Ale
Brown ales are a great middle ground between light and dark ales. Pale ales are great, but they can be a bit hop driven and light. Porters and stouts are great too, but they can be too malt driven and heavy. But the brown ale can lean either way and, if balanced correctly, can offer both the malty goodness of darker beers while also giving a great hop kick that craft beer drinkers love so much.
As the name would suggest, brown ales are… brown.
Depending on the specific style, brown ale malts may give hints of coffee, chocolate, caramel, or nut. The malts in a brown ale typically come out pretty well and they can have a bit of sweetness to them as well.
Being a versatile beer, the hop additions for a brown ale can be varied as well. While the pale ale is probably more famous for different styles between the Old and the New World, brown ales can have just as many sub-styles and characteristics depending on where they’re made. As with its paler cousins, brown ales can really reflect where they’re made simply through the hops.
When to drink a brown ale
Brown ales just sit in that perfect place…
Because of this, a brown ale can be a good “all weather beer:” moderate weather is perfect for a brown ale because, well, it’s a moderate beer; in colder weather a brown ale works well because they have a bit of weight to them; in warmer weather, they’re not too heavy.
Of course for the extremes of hot and cold weather, there’s usually a more appropriate beer, which is both the good and bad thing about brown ales. It’s versatile, but because of this may not be perfect in all weather! All in all, it’s typically an in between weather beer, like in Autumn.
Generally speaking, brown ales can be a great session beer. As mentioned, they’re not too heavy, not too light. Sure, the go to for a session beer may be a pale ale, a bitter, or an easy going lager but a brown can be a bit different to sit on all night. Also, there’s just something about the look of a brown ale in a pint glass. It looks better than a pale ale and much better than a lager. A brown ale looks like a real drink!
Brown ale and food
A brown ale goes well with a lot of different types of food. A lot of the time, pairing a brown ale with almost any type of food will go fairly well. There’s no big flavours in a brown ale and the beer sits so well between hoppiness and maltiness that it sits well with any food.
Since brown ales can often be on the sweeter side, they pair well with spicier foods, but slightly heavier spicy food: a hardy curry or Mexican can go very well. Similarly, a Texas Chili would go well with a brown ale, but a light Thai salad may not go quite as well (but still pretty OK).
Due to the roasted malts, browns ales go best with meat or anything roasted. So if you want to have some veges with a brown ale, roast something traditional like potatoes, garlic, and carrots. It can really be a “meat and three vege” kind of beer.
Feel free to leave comments with your favourite brown ale!