Ray's Craft Beer Newsletter
No Frown Browns!
October 2012
Volume 1 Issue 2
Dear Rays Craft Beer Lovers,
Let me begin by thanking everyone for reading the first newsletter. I received some great feedback and truly enjoy sharing this with all of you. Not content to rest on my laurels, though, I promise no sophomore slump for the second edition. This time we will look at another classic fall style -- brown ales. In addition to that we'll feature an incredible English beer from a brewery leading London's craft beer resurgence.
Dan Downes
English Brown Ales
American Brown Ales
Beer Geek Shelf
The term brown ale originates in England in the early-mid 1700s, but not necessarily as a beer style. It appears to simply be used as a descriptor for porters, one of the more popular styles at the time. The modern idea for what we call brown ales can be traced to 1902. It was in this year that Thomas Wells Thorpe invented a new bottled beer at Mann's Albion Brewery in Whitechapel, East London. Promoted as the "sweetest beer in London" it did not catch on until about twenty years later. Part of this can be attributed to World War I which caused a crash in beer strength (due to brewing materials being diverted to other uses) and an overall rise in the popularity of bottled beers. The increased popularity of brown ales lead to the creation of Newcastle Brown Ale in 1927, perhaps the most recognizable beer of the style. 
The man who started it all!
English Brown Ales
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale


This is the quintessential English Brown Ale from Yorkshire's oldest brewery. Brewed with the well water from 85 feet below ground, the beer pours a rich mahogany color with reddish hues. While there are no actual nuts used in the recipe, the dark malts give hazelnut and walnut undertones. Perfectly balanced, there is a slight sweetness that'll remind you of molasses. Looking for a food pairing? Try this the next time you order Chinese or Thai takeout.

Bell's Best Brown
It may come from an American brewery, but Bell's Best Brown still exemplifies the English style. Possessing a pleasant malt body, it does not come across as heavy. This beer can definitely be described as a "finesse" brown. Think cocoa flavor as opposed to chocolatey sweetness. During summer we talk about lawnmower beers; this can be your leaf raking one! 
American Brown Ales

There does appear to be evidence of American brown ales in the early part of the 20th century, but the modern American Brown Ale finds its roots in 1980. That's right, when Captain & Tennille were racing up the charts with, "Do That to Me One More Time," homebrewer Scott Birdwell was laying the foundation for a new style of beer. His submission of a darker, hoppier brown ale in the "No Commercial Comparisons" division at homebrewing convention in San Rafael became a hit. Called a California Dark at the time, the style now retains the title of American Brown Ale. Basically, ABAs are darker, maltier ahd hoppier versions of their English counterparts. They also often exhibit citrusy characteristics due to the use of American hops. 
Goose Island Nut Brown

Picture via gooseisland.com
 A combination of domestic and imported malt gives this beer a real depth of flavor. Milk chocolate, honey and a toasted characteristics come through both on the palate and the nose. The sweetness of the beer is cut nicely by the citric flavors of the Willamette hops and help balance the beer nicely. Pour a pint of this to go with your favorite pork dish! 
Sierra Nevada Tumbler

Picture via sierranevada.com

Tumbler is another flawless creation by one of the pioneers of the American craft beer movement. A smooth, creamy beer, it has a lighter body that makes it very drinkable. The malt comes through on the nose along with a slight whiff of coffee. This beer has the right amount of roasted flavor without overwhelming. The roasted characteristics are balanced nicely by sweetness reminiscent of brown sugar. Very light hop presence, this beer is great choice for outdoor tailgating!

Sixpoint Brownstone

Picture via sixpoint.com
One of the newer breweries to enter the Wisconsin market, Sixpoint out of Brooklyn, New York showcases what American breweries have done to the traditional style. Mild brown color with reddish hues, caramel and cream aromas come through. What makes this beer stand out from the others is its hop presence. Not overwhelming, but the hop kick on the back end delivers more than usual. The hope bite is nicely balanced by excellent biscuit/breadiness from the malt. Finishing crisp, those worried about a lingering bitterness have no cause for concern.  
Tyranena Rocky's Revenge

Picture via tyranena.com

Sometimes a great beer comes along with a great story. The waters of Rock Lake, Wisconsin are patrolled by a legendary lizard-like creature named Rocky. Placed there to protect the sacred underwater tepees, Tyranena offers Rocky's Revenge as a tribute to the guardian. What makes this beer stand apart is the fact that a portion of is actually aged in bourbon barrels. So while Rocky's Revenge exhibits the maltiness and sweetness typical of brown ales, the barrel aging gives it an entirely different level of complexity. In addition to chocolate and caramel, there are vanilla and a rich oak flavor that comes through. Since this is a bigger beer, you can pair it with richer flavored foods. Try with beef stew, creamy polentas or a rich chocolate cake.

From the Beer Geek Shelf
Meantime Brewing Old Naval College Porter

With all the great beers in the Ray's cooler, sometimes it's hard to remember to stop by the Beer Geek shelf. This section will highlight beers that should not be overlooked. This month my selection is the Meantime Brewing Company Naval College Old Porter.

Previously available only on draft at the Old Royal Naval Hospital, you'll realize why Meantime is at the forefront of the London brewing resurgence after trying this beer. Aged for 24 months in oak barrels  that held scotch whisky (Bruichladdich's Octomore to be exact). This complex beer will give aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, plums, coffee and a slight smokiness. Blended with a younger porter to give it some effervescence, the taste mirrors the nose. What sets this apart, though, is the finish. The scotch whisky barrels give the beer a nice, subtle peatiness that is unlike anything else we have on the shelf. 
Goes great with offal or charcuterie.
Thanks again for subscribing to and reading Ray's craft beer newsletter. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to email me at dandownes@rayswine.com

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Dan & the gang at Ray's

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