Friday, March 6, 2015

Brown is the New IPA

I made a New Year's commitment - not a resolution, just a commitment - to try more styles than IPA.   Too often I default to IPAs, and therefore miss out on good beers.  Two months into the year and I give my diversity effort a "C" letter grade, it is hard to shake my IPA affliction.   So far this year, though, I have gained a new appreciation for brown ales.  It is a style that gets an unfair reputation, due in large part to style giant Newcastle Brown Ale.  Newcy Brown is bland and simple, but it is more harmless than horrible, and I would choose it over most other macro beers.   It is nothing compared to two local brown ales.

Two San Diego breweries, Culture Brewing and New English, make fantastic brown ales.   Culture's Ocean Beach tasting room opened last November and has given me the opportunity to try several of its beers.  I, of course, started with Mosaic IPA and then tried Keystone IPA (which is Mosaic IPA with added grapefruit).  I soon found I liked Culture's Pale Ale better then its IPAs, but then I tasted its American Brown Ale, and it is now my favorite Culture beer.  Culture's American Brown Ale is the antithesis of bland.  Its deep, smoke tinged malt flavors are countered and perked up by a strong hop kick in the finish.  This bold, spicy beer is only 6% abv and does not exhaust your palate, which to me is a by-product of too many malt-centric beers.  (Culture's website lists American Brown Ale and Brown Ale, and I am writing about the American Brown Ale.)

New English's Brewers Special Brown Ale is similar to Culture's American Brown Ale.  It has a strong dose of hops to complement and ease the impact of the initial heavy, bready malts.  It has a warmth and richness that seem right for what passes as winter in San Diego.  Brewers Special Brown Ale is a drinkable beer, and at 6.6% abv, not a boozer. 

I like Culture's and New English's approach to brown ales.  They don't add chocolate or coffee to give their ales enhanced "brown" character, they instead rely on roasted malts, biting hops, and brewing skill.  Culture's American Brown Ale is usually available on draft at Culture's Ocean Beach tasting room, and New English bottles Brewers Special Brown Ale, but it can be hard to find, unfortunately.

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