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Well, almost – because we all know it didn’t really go away. The term ‘Brown Beer’ as a disparaging one is wholly unjustified, yet seems to fit what it’s often used for so well. Brown. Dull. Ordinary. It’s always puzzled me why we don’t apply this term to US beers – where ‘Brown Ale’ is a rich, robust, rustic term that only denotes simple tastiness (such as Brooklyn Brown or Smuttnose Brown Eyed Dog). Again, I’d assume because, using the law of averages, there’s simply a lot of flavour-light, identikit Brown Beers in the UK Market. *Or is it just a natural progression from Black IPA – mixing high-alpha hops with darker, more complex malt bills? It’s one of those things that seems like such a no-brainer that you wonder why it’s not been done sooner on a similar scale.
Maybe ‘Beige’ would be a better term, because recently there’s been a bit of a resurgence in Brown beers; or rather, Brown Beers mk 2. In the past week, I’ve tried no less than three of these kinds of beer; simple, malty beers with a bit of interest in the nose.
Thornbridge’s Browne *is a showcase for Stella hops (now that’s poetic – what next *- Foster’s malt? Coors yeast? I’m being flippant, of course), and a quick jump over to Thornbridge’s excellent blog tells you what the lads were thinking.*“With Browne we have created a medium intensity beer in both flavour and aroma. It has a juicy fruit and floral aroma upfront but nice hints of roasted and caramel-like aromas come through. This juicy aroma comes from the use of a single hop called Stella which we* used exclusively in the hopback – or as we know it the Hopnik and we developed this beer so that 90% of the total bitterness would come from our Hopnik addition. It is 4.3% abv with 38 IBUs of tastefully balanced bitterness”
Reading between the lines you’ve got a very straight-down-the-line beer – medium intensity, medium abv. But it’s incredibly, incredibly tasty. We sampled some in Pivo York a couple of days back and it was in perfect condition; subtle, caramel-sweet in the middle, smooth as hell but with a gorgeously floral aroma. And yes, you could drink a couple of them without tiring.
For a lighter riff on a similar theme, Thornbridge’s Kill Your Darlings *in currently doing the rounds. Vienna Lager this time, and brewed to celebrate Kid Acne’s new art show of the same name. I hope he appreciates what they’ve created done because KYD is bloody good; all burnt toffee in the body and a crisp, clean finish. I need to get some bottled so I can enjoy it Pizza and Burgers, Chops and Ribs.
Great Heck and Zak Avery recently collaborated to brew Heckstra Ordinary, a 5%abv Best Bitter. Ordinary? Brown? Well, no and yes – much like Brown it’s got a great, satisfyingly malty body, topped off with a tropical-fruit nose that just lifts everything into something else entirely (does that even make sense?). A little dryer and more bitter than Browne, it’s yet another riff on a theme that I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the months to come. Ilkley’s IXB*(see previous post) is already proving to be a tasty cousin to both these two great beers, so don’t miss them if you catch them on your bar.