Even if you weren’t familiar with many Brown ales, its probable that you have heard of NewCastle Brown, the world’s best selling brown ale, perceived in the UK as the “Working Man’s Beer”. These dark-colored brews with more malt than hops and flavors of toasty nuts, chocolate, caramel, and toffee are perfect for a Michigan Fall season, and lasting throughout a bitter cold Winter. Here is a list of 10 you can find throughout the United States worth your time.
Ellie’s Brown Ale- Avery Brewing
When I opened Shakespeare’s Pub in 2003, one of the first Craft Brown Ales I could find to put on draft was Ellie’s Brown. Named after the Founder of Avery Brewing, Adam Avery’s dog. It is dominated by chocolate and brown sugar maltiness with hints of vanilla and nuts. It remains one of the most balanced, and consistently familiar brown ales in the world, and one that Avery should be proud to get behind. Let alone being a dog lover, which was a lock that I would tap this beer.
Maduro Brown Ale- Cigar City Brewing
Cigar City Brewing originated in warm weather Florida, which made little sense to me that they would make such a great cold weather beer, but they have. Maduro Brown Ale is named after the darkest colored and most complex cigars made in Tampa’s Ybor City with an overripe wrapper and chocolatey, earthy flavors. This was the inspiration behind Cigar City’s brown ale, brewed with flaked oats for a silky mouthfeel and flavors and aromas of chocolate, espresso, and toffee and a woody hop presence. I don’t know how it pairs with a cigar, but it sure does help you stay warm during those mild Michigan winter nights.
Best Brown- Bell’s Brewing
Shakespeare’s Pub is the next door neighbor to the Eccentric Cafe, which is the tasting house to Bell’s Brewery. It is only fitting that we are biased in our listing, but it’s justified, because Best Brown Ale is world class. One of the original flagship beers of Bell’s, Best Brown bridges the gap between lighter-bodied beers and malty stouts. It’s smooth, toasty body with hints of cocoa and caramel help make it that way.
Brooklyn Brown Ale- Brooklyn Brewing
I had first learned about Brooklyn Brown Ale while reading “The BrewMaster’s Table” by Garrett Oliver, the founding father of Brooklyn Brewery. Garrett wrote about pairing beer with food and how it is more versatile than wine with a number of foods. It would be years later that I had a tiny phone call with him about his award winning brown ale, and these are the little moments that make me feel successful in this crazy world of craft beer (I am certain Garrett loves sausage though, because he pairs it with a lot of beer styles). Brooklyn Brown combines the dry English style brown ale with the American roasty hop character style. Full-flavored and smooth with a crisp, chocolate malt backbone. Pairs well with steaks, burgers, and stew… and I bet also…. sausage!
Hazelnut Brown Nectar- Rogue Brewing
Brewed out of Oregon, the hazelnut capital of the United States, Hazelnut Brown Nectar offers a smooth nutty flavor and smooth malty finish. One of the best selling brown ales I have ever tapped at Shakespeare’s and I believe its for its subtle sweetness and ever present nutty, toffee, and roasty body.
Sugarwood Baklava – Boulevard Brewing
I don’t know if you can get this beer on draft, but my guess is, probably not. I was very fortunate to have someone bring me a bottle, and it is out of this world. Sugarwood Baklava has big maple and bourbon aromas supported by the rich powerhouse combination of pecan, whiskey, and sweet honey malt flavors with a high alcohol 14.2%. It makes you feel as if you are eating baklava, without getting your fingers sticky.
French Toast- Funky Buddha Brewing
As far as sweet brown ales go, there is nothing subtle about it with Funky Buddha’s French Toast. A double brown ale with flavors of custardy bread, cinnamon and maple. Only brewed in September and it announces Fall better than sending the kids back to school. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this beer supports that theory.
Board Meeting- Port Brewing
An amplified brown ale brewed for early morning risers! Blended with a liberal addition of coffee, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate and creamy vanilla, Board Meeting Double Brown ale has the caffeine to keep you awake for the work meeting you wish you could avoid. Thankfully, many of us work from home now.
George- Hill Farmstead Brewing
More hoppy than most on the list, with a triple hop varietal used in many IPA’s, George has a strong roast aroma but hardly any malt sweetness. Notes of coffee with a dry hop bitterness, reminiscent of a black IPA. It’s pretty great, but if a traditional brown is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed. It drinks like no other.
Squirrel- Rhinegeist Brewing
Squirrel is fantastically named for being a nut brown ale. Sweet notes of toffee and chocolate with a chestnut brown color and ever apparent peanut flavor. There are subtle hints of dark fruits like plums and a faint floral hop letting you know they haven’t forgotten to make beer rather than a malt bomb. It’s easy to drink, and true to style.
Didn’t see a brown ale on the list that you think deserved to be there? Please comment and drop me some knowledge on brown ales I may have missed or should revisit. The more the merrier! Also, please check out my affiliates below, who have some pretty cool stuff too! They have been super supportive of Dad Joke Genius and most of the cringe-worthy jokes!www.boozedust.com