In modern American craft brewing, brown ales are often an afterthought. If you look at the core beers for most breweries, you will see the obligatory IPA, a saison, a stout/porter, a wit/wheat ale/hefeweizen, and probably a lager/pilsner/Kolsch. That leaves the brown ale out in the cold. Why is that?
While the brown ale is seemingly simple it is a rather difficult beer to brew well and it is a beer misunderstood by many drinkers. It along with ambers is the in between beer. It isn’t as dark and heavy as a stout or even a porter and it isn’t as hoppy as an IPA. It is made for the lovers of malt. So how do you define it?
For me, a good brown is the perfect session beer. Not hoppy, with a low abv, and still a lot of taste.
One way to highlight a brown ale is to make it a seasonal. This may seem strange for such a simple style, but it means a brewery is giving the beer the time and attention it deserves.
Bell’s Best Brown Ale is a chestnut colored brown ale released seasonally at the beginning of every fall. Like a good Marzen or Oktoberfeistbier, there is nothing remarkable about this beer. It is just that Bells has taken the time to craft a good and solid brown ale. First, as I said, it is chestnut in color and has a thin off-white head that has good retention.
Next, it has a chocolaty malt aroma and a faint hops aroma just underneath it. The first thing you notice is that it has a light malty feel on your palate. The taste is where it all comes together for this beer. You get a slightly chocolate and maybe hazelnut (?) taste to with just enough of a hop bitterness reminder to highlight the malt and make you want to have another sip.
As much as people want hops and hoppy taste to their beers, without malt balancing out the hops you get a mouthful of grass clippings. That is why black IPAs and browns are maybe my two favorite styles when well-made and balanced. BIPAs must have enough malt to highlight the hops and browns must have enough hops to balance out the malt.
Best Brown achieves this balance and provides fans of malty beers another great fall seasonal option.