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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Brown Beers of Spring

Charting the currents of beer trends leads you into strange waters. How, for instance, did brown ale become the beer of spring? I waited for well over a decade to see a decent brown hit the commercial market, and when it finally did--I'm thinking of Buzzsaw here--it was quickly followed up by another, Beer Town from BridgePort. And just yesterday, I discovered the current Full Sail Brewmaster Reserve--a Nut Brown. From nowhere to official Spring beer in a couple years--who'dda thunk?

It's a good style for Oregon Spring. Breweries used to release lighter, sunnier brews that didn't match the chilly, slate-colored reality. They were overly optimistic. Browns are lighter than winter styles, but hearty and warming, befitting a climate that can deliver drizzly, mid-50s weather through May.

About Browns
Brown ales are the forgotten stepchild in American brewing. Whenever they are taken up, it seems like an afterthought to fill out a line between pales and stouts. But brown ales should be something more than a pale with chocolate malt.

In England, the venerable Newcastle brewery actually introduced its beer as a rival to pale ales in 1927. That beer is light and bright, with toffee and banana notes. Other browns can have a richer, winier quality while others are nutty.

Full Sail Nut Brown
Of the three bottle browns now available, Full Sail's pushes further out into the hearty and robust than Beer Town and Buzzsaw. It pours out almost porter-dark, but light does refract through, revealing a bright, deep brown. The aroma is floral/citrusy, lifted up by nutty malt. It is sweet on the front of the palate, but slightly earthy and rooty. In fact, it even has a root beer quality. The malt is quite nutty, tending toward astringent in the manner of almonds or walnuts. Browns should be creamy, and this one is--almost frothily so. I tend to like browns with a little more oomph, and I enjoyed the depth and richness here.

Stats
Hops/Malt: Unknown
Alcohol By Volume: 6%
Original Gravity: Unknown
BUs: 31
Available: Until June, in 22 ounce bottles
Rating: B+

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