• Dining

American Brown Ale

An unassuming yet fantastic beer for early fall


October 11, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob


There are few things I like better than fall, and one of my go to styles this time of year is the American Brown ale. Flavors that compliment the season, American Brown ales in color, smell and especially taste are a perfect autumn brew.

Younger brother to the classic English brown ale, the American version has become an entity almost unto itself. Prevalent, interesting, satisfying, American brown ales are certainly recommended, and their numbers grow yearly.

Compared to the English brown ale, the American brown can be maltier, hoppier, stronger, or almost indistinguishable from the original. Many examples today bear little resemblance to the brown beers of island across the pond, some with richness rivaling porter, others with bitterness in the IPA range.

It seems that the first American brown ales to hit the shelves during the craft beer revolution were knock-offs of those made on the shores of the British empire. Pete’s Wicked ale was one of the first American brown ales I remember, and it was English enough, with a hint of hops and bitterness.

However, as was and still is typical with many American versions of traditional styles, the next round consisted of highly hopped brown ales, a distinctly yank way of making beer. From there, many different adaptations have made their way to market.

Of the traditionalists, Brooklyn Brown Ale is very much in the classic sense, as are Bell’s Best Brown, Cottonwood’s Low Down Brown Ale. All of these are sweetish ales, in the English tradition, not strong or overwhelming, quite tasty and smooth.

The majority of American brown ales fall into the hoppy category. Sierra Nevada is an obvious example of the bigger craft breweries, while Duck Rabbit from North Carolina is a microbrewer that offers great, hoppy American brown ale. If you can find it, Pete’s Brown from Bear Republic is a good one.

If its hops you want, which is your right as an American beer drinker; there are several beers in the crazy hoppy group, most of which would prefer to be called IBA (India Brown ale). Dogfish Head Indian Brown ale is excellent, and as close to IPA as they are to brown ale. The Duck rabbit almost sneaks into this crowd.

If you prefer the sweet and nutty side of brown ale, then an easy drinker is Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown. More in common with a northern English brown, there is still enough hop presence to announce its true country of origin. A much stronger beer in alcohol and flavor is Rogue’s famous Hazelnut Brown nectar, a bittersweet gem. The hazelnut flavor melds wonderfully with the excellent brown ale.

Lastly, but certainly not least, there is Ellie’s Brown ale from Avery Brewing Company. A brown ale somewhere in the middle, Ellie’s has hints of sweetness, but more than enough hops to be a modern American brown. Caramel dominates in aroma and taste, but roasted notes and a touch of smoke are discernible too. Let this one warm up to get the full array of flavors and little nuances of this very well made beer. Definitely an American brown ale. Enjoy the brews … Cheers.

Gene’s Haufbrau has at more than 200 beers in bottles or on tap. While they don’t have every beer the Beer Snob writes about, they probably  have most. E-mail the Beer Snob at publisher@westof.net.


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