Collection of brown ales

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.

Collection of brown ales

One these beers is not like the others…

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.

A bottle of Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn brown ale with a pint glass filled with Tumbler

My hero.

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.