Brown Ale

Guide to Brown Ale

Brown ales are renowned for their typically malt-forward character and dark-reddish to brown-black appearance, which comes as a direct result of the use of darker and moderately roasted grains during its production.

When it comes to exploring the category, there are generally understood to be two main variations of the style, being:

  • American Brown Ale
  • English Brown Ale

Irrespective of the specific sub-style being considered, however, brown ales in general sit somewhere between a regular pale ale and a regular porter in terms of their flavour profile, meaning these beers will often contain toasted malt flavours of chocolate, biscuits, toffee, and nuts, and light to moderate amounts of hoppy bitterness.

Brown Ale Characteristics

Whilst these beers do possess a stronger hop profile than say a porter, hoppy fruit flavours are characteristically kept on the lower side, although there are plenty of exceptions to this rule in the world of American brown ales.

For more information on the general attributes of this style, consider this useful article.

American Brown Ale

American Brown Ale Characteristics

Due to the American brewers typical fondness for utilising hops more thoroughly in the production of their beers, it results in the creation of brown ales with a noticeably enhanced amount of hop flavour, aroma, and bitterness than that of their English counterparts.

As such, one can expect to find a typical example of American brown ale as being moderate in its malt profile, with malty flavours of chocolate, caramel, and toast appearing, moderate to high in its inclusion of hoppy bitterness, and finally, low to moderate in its degree of hoppy fruit flavours, with prominent examples including citrus or fresh fruits.

Because of these attributes, as well as its moderate to high levels of carbonation, these beers are often best paired with grilled meat or vegetable dishes, especially exotically spiced portions, or with aged gouda cheese.

English Brown Ale

English brown ales tend to be characteristically less intense in their overall use of hops, with differences instead becoming more apparent in the malt profile, which can be interchangeably sweet or dry.

Whilst they're not as dark as a typical stout or porter, English brown ales still require brewers to use considerable amounts of various roasted grains during the brewing proceess, resulting in beers with a well-developed malt profile that often exudes flavours of sweet or dry chocolate, light toast, and roasted nuts.

Accompanying the variably sweet or dry malt profile is a typically low hop profile that results in beers with almost undetectable amounts of hoppy fruit flavours and only low degrees of hoppy bitterness.

Combine all of this in a beer with often low to moderate amounts of carbonation and you will find that they pair best when matched with roasted meats, aged gouda cheese, and finally, earthy vegetables that includes the use of mushrooms or beans.

English Brown Ale Characteristics

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