OK, so naming a beer based on its color isn't exactly exciting. When that color is brown, well…yikes. But don't be turned off by the name. Brown Ales are plenty innovative, even if they're don't often find the spotlight. By taking a name from their hue, the food-friendly beers a free from the shackles of regional traditions, ingredient requirements and brewing styles of other beers. Styles vary wildly in flavor, alcohol level and origin.
What Exactly Is an Ale?
Ale is beer that's been brewed using a warm fermentation method. What results is a full-bodied, slightly sugary and somewhat fruity brew. The sweetness of the malt is countered with the use of bittering agents, which also act as a preservative. Historically, hops were not used at all when crafting ale, but in recent years they've taken on the role of bittering agent. The ale family is a diverse one. Among the many choices are pale ales, Scotch ales and Belgian ales.
Paintin' the Town Brown:
When it first originated back in the 18th century, brown ale was lightly hopped and crafted purely from brown malt. Nowadays, the term is more loosely applied to any ale that's dark amber or brown in color. This genre of beer is probably best defined by offerings such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale and Pete's Wicked Ale.
Some brown ales have a distinctly sweet flavor and are low in alcohol content. Others have a hoppier taste and a more powerful punch. Accents of chocolate and caramel are easily detected in most browns. Regional influences on brown ales can't be denied. Those sourced from southern England tend to be sweeter with a lower alcohol content, while those from the north are malty, nutty and more potent. The influence of American hops tends to make North American brown ales more bitter, with a hint of fruit or citrus.
Brown Ale — A Foodie Favorite:
Its moderation between light, summery brew and heavier winter stout makes brown ale perfect for pairing with fall foods. Think root vegetables like potatoes, squash and carrots. Its nutty flavor is perfectly complemented by cheeses such as aged Gouda or mild cheddar. Grilled red meats also taste great with the toasty flavor of most browns.
Ideal Serving Temperature: Cool (45-55 degrees)
Suggested Glassware: Pint glass