The Session #120: Brown Beer

The SessionTen years in and we are still doing The Session! This month marks our 120th edition of “Beer Blogging Friday” which seems pretty momentous in the world of beer blogging—and I’ve been here for nearly all of them (had a few that I missed or was very late on). I plan to keep on doing them too, and in fact I’ll be hosting next month.

But that will be then. Our February 2017 Session is hosted by Joe Tindall of The Fatal Glass of Beer, and he asks us to consider Brown Beer:

The colour brown has certain connotations, some of which I won’t dwell on. But used in reference to beer, it can signify a kind of depressing old fashioned-ness – to refer to a traditional bitter as ‘brown’ seems to suggest it belongs to a bygone corduroy-trousered era. As breweries who pride themselves on their modernity focus on beers that are either decidedly pale or unmistakably black, the unglamorous brown middle ground is consistently neglected.

So for Session 120, let’s buck the trend and contemplate brown beer. This might be brown ale, or the aforementioned English bitter; it could be a malty Belgian brune, a dubbel or a tart oud bruin; even a German dunkel might qualify.

Newcastle Brown AleI know Joe is angling more towards the overall brown color of a variety of styles, but my mind wants to veer back into the “Brown Ale” category when I contemplate “brown.” To be sure I have definitely been enjoying a number of brown(ish) beers lately, which would include JDub’s Brewing Bell Cow (Chocolate Porter), RiverBend Brewing‘s Ash River (Dunkelweizen), Shiner Bock, various winter ales, and so on. But when it comes to Brown Ales by style, there just aren’t many brewed these days—neglected, as Joe says.

Which is a shame, I love a good Brown Ale. They are not completely absent of course; McMenamins currently has their seasonal Sleepy Hollow Nut Brown on tap, and here at my local McMenamins (the Old St. Francis School), there is also Parson Brown, a winter favorite created by brewer Mike White. Bend’s GoodLife Brewing has their 29’er Brown Ale, while at Cascade Lakes Brewing in Redmond they brew up their 20-Inch Brown. And Wild Ride Brewing offers Mount Up Maple Brown.

And I believe that covers the current local offerings for the style (there may be some others I’m unaware of). Let’s be honest, Browns just aren’t an exciting style. No experimental hops adding layers of tropical fruit flavors; no crazy or exotic ingredients (though coffee would be a good addition); no outrageous levels of alcohol. Mellow, balanced, malty and mild tend to mean “boring” with today’s fickle beer drinkers.

But there’s something comforting in the style, and a well-brewed Brown Ale is a great fallback for casual drinking when you don’t want or need the latest and greatest beer geek experiment.

I’ve reviewed a number of brown ales over the years, and while it’s not comprehensive you can find many of those reviews here. Here’s what you should do this month: seek out a few Brown Ales and get reacquainted with the style.