Recently in English Brown Ale Category

February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Novembeer Club

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Another month, another beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is just a monthly gathering of friends from work for dinner and, of course, lots of beer (and often other alcoholic wonders). We had an average turnout, but still lots of fun and we had so much beer that we couldn't even get to all of it... A transitional period in terms of seasonal beers. Some leftover fall seasonals, some holiday beers, but the majority of beers were regular offerings:

beerclub-nov11.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or as sacred scripture (as I'm sure you do with all my other posts). The choice is yours. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat - A very solid Hefeweizen from semi-local Tröegs. I've actually had this a few times before, but there's nothing particularly unique about it. A really nice example of the style though. B
  • Amager Julebryg 2008 - Dark color, with a wonderful aroma that is filled with crystal malts and caramel flavors (and maybe some subtle spicing). Taste is a little more roasty than I was expecting from the nose, with some coffee and maybe a little chocolate apparent. Full bodied but smooth, a really nice beer. It feels more like a solid stout than a holiday beer, but it's good either way (Beer Advocate calls it a dubbel, which sorta fits, but I probably wouldn't have guessed that from the beer itself). The bottle sez it was spiced, and it was certainly complex, but nothing particularly stood out (this is actually a good thing). Brewer Amager warrants further exploration. B+
  • Guinness Black Lager - This feels like a more crisp, carbonated version of Guinness' famous dry stout with less roastiness. It's an easy drinking beer, but the flavor seems oddly muted (perhaps because of the other brews of the night). Nothing wrong with it, but not a particularly special beer either. C+
  • Abita Turbodog - A great name for a beer that turns out to be a standard brown ale. Certainly nothing wrong with it and a solid example of the style, but not particularly special either. B-
  • Wychwood King Goblin - According to the bottle, this beer is only brewed under a full moon. It's got that typical Wychwood style label which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the beer doesn't quite live up to the branding. Lots of head and perhaps as a consequence, a little too light on the carbonation. Not quite flat, but it wasn't a good mouthfeel at all. Taste was hoppy, but not in the typical American pale ale way - perhaps this is more of an English pale ale (BA has it pegged as an English Strong Ale). Not a horrible beer, but not something that I could really connect with either. I don't know, Wychwood beers seem to be hitting me the wrong way lately... C
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - An interesting example of the style as it seems to emphasize the pumpkin more than the spices (which are still there, but not anywhere near as prevalent as they typically are in pumpkin ales). Smooth, tasty, and easy to drink. Nothing revelatory, but a good example of the style. B
  • Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes - One of my contributions for the night, this is a really interesting combination. Basically a Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it features the hallmarks of both styles. Unlike a lot of style mixtures, I think these two styles complement each other well. Very sweet and malty, with that typical Belgian yeast character coming out in a prominent way. I actually have another bottle of this sitting around, so look for a full review at some point...
  • Fegley's Brew Works Rude Elf's Reserve - Another beer I'll probably review separately, but I will say that this is a hugely alcoholic (10.5% ABV) spiced beer. Kinda like an overspiced pumpkin beer without any pumpkin (I had one of these earlier, along with a pumpkin ale, and found this one sharing a lot of the pumpkin spices)... Look for a separate review sometime this holiday season...
  • Dana's Homebrewed Dubbel - A nice dubbel style beer, only recently bottled, so it could probably use some more time to condition, but it's still pretty good. Nice traditional Belgian yeast character with a medium body. Easy to drink.
We didn't get to try a few of the beers in the picture, including Troegenator, Hoptober, and Amish Four Grain Pale Ale. All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, as we will most likely be drinking all Holiday beers (aka, my favorite seasonals).

Texas Beer Dispatch

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As previously mentioned, I spent the last week watching horror, SF, action and just plain weird movies, not to mention hobbits beating the crap out of each other (see my other blog for thoughts on the movies and other events of Fantastic Fest). Of course, nearly all of this was accompanied by beer. I must say, the Alamo Drafthouse is one awesome venue for a number of reasons, but right now, I'll just say that it represents a melding of two passions: beer and movies. They've got some common offerings, but most of their beer menu is local craft stuff, and I spent most of the week sampling beers I've never heard of and can't really get up here in PA. As I mentioned in an update to my previous post, I was tracking my beers via Untappd all week, but then, I was also watching movies and talking a lot, so take the below thoughts with a grain of salt. Alright, here goes (in roughly the order in which they were drank):

  • Live Oak Oaktoberfest - So not only local beers, but local seasonals - and this is a pretty damn good one. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular beer, but it was exactly what I was looking for out of an Octoberfest beer, and one of the better examples I've ever head of that style. B+
  • Shiner Bock - You can't got to Texas and not have at least one of these, right? And Shiner happened to be a sponsor of the festival, so these were available in abundance, sometimes even being handed out for free. I've talked about this beer before, though that was on another trip so I didn't actually rate it. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a solid beer and it's hard to argue with free pints, right? B
  • New Belgium Hoptober - Ok, so this isn't a local Texas beer, but New Belgium doesn't really distribute here (though they have started in Maryland) so I always try some of their stuff whenever I can. I would have described this as a very good IPA, but BA calls it an "American Blonde Ale"? Strange because, as the name suggests, it's massively hoppy. A really nice piney hop aroma. Well matched sweetness and hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, a really good brew, one of my favorites of the week. B+
  • Lagunitas Mystery Red Ale - So on Friday, my local Austin friends took me out and I ended up getting some sort of Lagunitas seasonal beer which I can't recall, but it was a red ale of some sort, very hoppy and tasty. I actually enjoyed this one immensely, so I wish I remembered what it was called. I think it may have been the Lucky 13, but who knows. B+
  • Independence Brewluminati Braggot - Well, braggot has gone from a style I'd never heard of to a style I've had two examples of in the past few weeks or so (the other being Weyerbacher's Sixteen). Go figure. I don't know that this one was as good as Weyerbacher's offering, but it was still a nice change of pace and worthy beer. It was lighter in color, so honey flavors dominated the taste more, but I still really enjoyed it. B
  • Real Ale Fireman's #4 - Another blonde ale and apparently another of Austin's typical session beers, as it was available all over. It's not a mind-blowing beer or anything, but pretty good for a simple blonde ale. It's got some subtle bready caramel notes, but is otherwise pretty straightforward. I only had one, but it's certainly a worthy session beer and I'd try it again. B-
  • North by Northwest Black Jack (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Local friends took me out to dinner at this most excellent brewpub, where I had their bourbon barrel aged black ale (BA calls it a Belgian dark ale, but I don't think that's right). It's quite fantastic. I didn't detect a ton in the nose, but damn, that taste is fantastic (and once I had some headroom in the glass to swirl the beer around, the nose came out more). Rich flavors of caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, a light oakiness, and maybe even some chocolate. Just a hint of toasted malts, but nothing like a stout. Very well balanced - no flavor dominates, making for a very complex brew. Appropriately carbonated, but a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Not too heavy and not too boozy, but it's certainly not a lightweight either. Probably my favorite beer of the week. A-
  • Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA - This is the sort of beer that makes me feel like IPAs are kinda... samey. It's hoppy in the nose and the taste, and it's bitter, but it's kinda one-note. Not much going on here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but there wasn't really anything special about it. C+
  • (512) IPA - Now this IPA, on the other hand, was maybe the best I'd had all week. Great citrus/pine nose, well balanced sweet/bitter combo in the taste (with some of that citrus/pine shining through). Nice and complex, a very well made beer. And damn, I didn't try any other (512) beers. Given this one, I probably should have sought them out! B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another non-TX beer that isn't super common in PA, so I gave this one a shot too. It's very good, roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors and that milk stout chalkiness (probably the wrong way to describe it, but it seems common to the milk stouts I've had recently). Well done, but nothing super special either. B
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard - So this one's really not local, nor is it something hard to come by, but I'd had a bunch of drinks that night, and was settling in for the Fantastic Feud, so I gots me a comfort beer. If you're reading this blog and need me to describe Arrogant Bastard... I'm sorry. Actually, I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's of course very good. B+
  • Independence Bootlegger Brown - I have to admit that I'm no expert on brown ales, but this one didn't really do the trick for me. It was fine for what it was - a dark, roasty, almost stout-like ale, but there wasn't really much complexity to it. I had no problems putting one down, but it doesn't really stick out for me at all either. B-
  • Live Oak Hefeweizen - I enjoy a good Hefe as much as the next guy, but they do tend to get pretty boring... but not this one! Wow, what a fantastic (pun intended) brew. If I had this earlier in the week, I'd have certainly had more of them. Really wonderful aroma of bananas and clove. Typical wheat and yeasty flavors mixed with a surprising fruitiness. Well balanced, complex, and a joy to drink. A-
  • Avery White Rascal - Another non-TX beer, but since I was rockin the wheat beers, I gave this one a shot. It's... not as good as the Live Oak, but it is pretty tasty all the same. Perhaps if I didn't have these two wheat beers back to back, I would have rated this higher. B
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 - Yeah, I've had this before and of course it's very good. I don't really have much to say about it - hoppy and bitter! - but if you like a good IPA, it hits the spot. B+
Well, there you have it, a successful outing and quite a variety of new beers I'd never heard of before. If you're ever in Austin, I recommend anything by Live Oak, as they seemed to have put together the best lineup (yeah, I only had 2 of their beers, but BA seems to rate the others pretty highly too). Before I left, I did stop off at a grocery store and picked up a big beer to bring home: Jester King's Wytchmaker Rye IPA in a fancy 750 ml bottle. Look for a review... uh, in the next month or so! Overall, I'm pretty jealous of Austinites. Not only do they have the best movie theater I've ever been too, but they can drink beer there too. We really need to get us some Alamo Drafthouse style places up here.

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

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"Nut." Tee hee.

In all seriousness, does anyone else really hate the foil wrapping stuff that comes on these beers? Sure, it looks nice and I've apparently been conditioned to buy fancily packaged beer (fucking Pavlov), but most fancy packaging is pretty easily dealt with. Not the fancy foil wrapping that's on Sam Smith's beers, though. Seriously, the entire surface area of that foil is seemingly superglued to the bottle, which means you have to pick and snip at it with various kitchen utensils, which just causes the brittle foil to flake into this annoying glitter-like substance that gets everywhere. And even once you cut around the cap enough that you can use a bottle opener, you have to worry about how you pour the beer and will it touch the glue and will those glittery flakes become airborne and land in my beer and give me cancer and stuff? No? Just me? Oh. Well then. Carry on.

Samuel Smith Nut Brown ale

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale - The bottle was a bit of a gusher (tee hee) when I opened it, but not excessively so, and it settled down quickly enough. Pours a very pretty, clear dark brown color with a finger of tan head. It looks very dark, but when held up to the light, I can see right through it. Smells on the roasty side of things. The taste also features that roast, along with some more complex notes. Either I'm a sucker for the power of suggestion or this is a nut brown beer that actually features nutty aromas and flavors. Indeed, it's probably the most prominent characteristic of the taste. The mouthfeel is quite nice as well. Medium bodied and eminently quaffable. Brown ales are not among my favorite styles, but this may be the best I've ever had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a gigantic mug on 8/28/11.

You know, I've only had two of Samuel Smith's beers, but they've both been pretty damn good. Not face melting experimental beers, just really solid takes on classic styles. But then, you know, fancy foil wrapping...

Adventures in Brewing - Part 3: The Tasting

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This is actually quite long overdue. I've already drank (or given away) more than a full case of my first attempt at homebrewing: an English Brown Ale. The general consensus is that it's pretty good! Or it's at least good enough that my friends don't feel the need to insult me. As for my own feelings, I think it was a fine first attempt, but I almost wish I had started with something a little more ambitious. Still, there's something really satisfying about enjoying the fruits of your own labor. I mean, I turned water into beer! How awesome is that? Here it is:

Homebrew #1

It's hard to tell from the picture, but it pours a nice dark brown color, with some shades of amber, especially when you hold it up to the light. Solid sized head, but only minor lacing as I drink. Smells fantastic. It's got a really sweet and bready smell. Taste starts off well enough. A little sweetness up front and the finish is actually rather dry. Unfortunately, it tastes a little thin to me. This is fine at the start of the glass (I think it makes a good first impression), but it's not as satisfying as you near the end. There's definitely no complexity at all in the taste... but then, there don't appear to be any off flavors either. Also, I was brewing from a rather ordinary kit recipe that wasn't really attempting any complexity, so there's that. All in all, I think it's probably a step up from the typical macro light lager, but it's not going to light the world on fire either. I'll give it a C+, which I think is probably fair.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

I'm pretty happy with my first attempt here, but it's clear that there's a lot of room for improvement. I learned a lot in my first attempt though, and I'm confident that my next beer will at least be more interesting, if not exactly perfect...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the English Brown Ale category.

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