The Brown Ale Monster
“You are such a ‘Malt-Head,’” my friend and local Sacramento beer judge said, chuckling into the phone. “No I’m not!” I sternly defended, but deep down I couldn’t deny what he was saying. Most craft beer drinkers, I believe, would describe themselves as “Hop-heads.” It’s why most of them seek out craft beer, and IPAs and double-IPAs dominate the market. I’m more of a woman who looks for balance in her beer. But my Twitter and Facebook posts do not lie—neither, it seems, does my fridge.Yes, I love brown ales. A lot. I think that spark started when I first tried Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. I loved the nutty, caramel scent, the reddish-brown hue, and the roasted malt forward-taste with the slightly heavy mouthfeel. Wait, I thought, isn’t craft beer supposed to be hopped to the nth degree? This was a big turning point for me as a craft beer drinker. Good beer didn’t have to be hyper-hopped. Don’t get me wrong; I like hops in my beer, but it didn’t have to be the end-all-be-all factor of a beer’s flavor. From that point on, I haven’t looked backed.
It can be difficult to find brown ales in stores, but, as the style has become more and more popular, I have been able to find select ales from a wide range of breweries. I am often surprised by the range of their interpretations. I have tasted brown ales that swung from stout-like to ales where the malt is almost overwhelmed by the hops. I guess they all have their place, but I do have my favorite.Sierra Nevada is such a large brewing company, I would never have expected that they would make such a great beer as their Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. It’s not sweet, has wonderful nuttiness, and a hint of smoke and caramel. It’s a fantastically well-balanced beer. So if you are lucky to find this style of brew at your local tap, I recommend you sway from the hop-side and take a step towards the brown-side. I promise: No Ewoks.