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CBN Brown Ale Blind Tastings

CBN Blind Tasting Panel
• Jay R. Brooks, Tasting Panel Director, CBN
• Bob Coleman, Reporter, CBN
• Tom Dalldorf, Editor / Publisher, CBN
• Paul Marshall, Beer Judge
• R.J. Trent, Beer Retailer / Former Brewer
• Special thanks to Mike Long, BTP Tasting coordinator/head steward

English brown ales — as distinct from Belgian (or Flemish) brown (or Bruins), which are a completely different and unrelated style — were not originally considered a separate style until around 40 years ago. The style’s most famous example is undoubtedly Newcastle Brown Ale, first brewed in 1927. English-style brown ales are dark amber to deep brown in color with dry to sweet malt character and low hopping (15–25 IBUs). Some roasted qualities and fruit esters are appropriate. There are also subtypes of English-style brown ales: mild (brown “lite”), northern English brown (Newcastle) and southern English brown (slightly less dry and less hoppy than the northern variety). American brown ales tend to be slightly more hoppy, and some add nuts or hazelnuts to emphasize and bring out the nutty character hinted at in the term nut brown ale. American-style browns differ only in higher hop character (25–45 IBUs), more chocolate or caramel roasted notes and lower esters.

Pete Brown Tribute Ale
Bear Republic Brewing Co., California

A tribute to longtime employee Peter Brown, who died tragically in 2002. A sweet malt nose with nutty, fruit-ester aromas. Dark brown color and a thick, rich tan head. Creamy, rich malt flavors with a delightful combination of smooth milk chocolate and roasted barley that ends with a long, hoppy finish. A terrific American brown ale.

Indian Brown Ale
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Delaware

Complex nose of smoky, spicy, nutty and rich coffee aromas. Deep, dark brown color. Soft, rich and lightly sweet honey flavors with nutty malt character and a big, tart finish.

Moose Drool Brown Ale
Big Sky Brewing Co., Montana

Sweet estery aromas with hints of caramel, hazelnut, spices and roasted malt. Deep brown mahogany color with a tan head. Soft, clean, malt-forward flavors with good balance and hints of brown rice. Ends with a refreshingly clean, tart flourish.

Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Rogue Ales, Oregon

Strong aromas of hazelnut and vanilla. Deep brown color and a tan head. Creamy, big, fat, sweet malt blast of toffee, caramel, vanilla and, of course, hazelnut, with great conditioning and a big, dry finish.

Downtown Brown
Lost Coast Brewing Co., California

Sweet herbal nose, nice brown color and a tan head. Soft malt flavor with nutty undertones and good balance. The finish is long and tart.

Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Breweries, Ltd., England

Rich, buttery and caramel malt aromas. Brown color and a tan head. Creamy, smooth flavors with rich caramel notes and excellent roasted malt character. Hints of banana esters present. Ends with a long, rich finish.

Pete’s Wicked Ale
Pete’s Brewing Co., New York and Texas

Nutty, malty nose, dark amber color and a thick tan head. Tart and nutty malt flavors with good balance and a dry, bitter finish.

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
The Old Brewery at Tadcaster, England

Sweet, malty nose with hints of sherry and vegetal notes. Dark brown color with a rich tan head. Creamy and chewy, with assertive malt flavors, just a hint of watermelon and a long, lingering finish.

Wolaver’s Brown Ale – Certified Organic
Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont

Nutty aromas with hints of alfalfa. Brown-amber color and a rich tan head. Creamy, with a good mouthfeel, spicy malt character and a dry, nutty tea-like finish.

California Brown Ale
Acme Brewing Co., California

Hazelnut malt aromas with sweet notes. Deep amber color and a tan head. Decent rounded malt character with pronounced hop tartness.

Raspberry Brown
Lost Coast Brewing Co., California

Raspberry estery aromas dominate the nose. The color is dark brown with a tan head. Creamy, with strong raspberry extract fruit flavor and good malt balance.

Schooner’s Brown Ale
Schooner’s Brewing Co., California

Light, perfumey, citric nose. Amber-brown color and large, oversized bubbles. Restrained malt flavors. Phenolic and astringent, creating an unpleasant chili-like spice character.


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