What is a Brown Ale?

Nothing makes Fall feel better than the caramel, malty flavors of Brown Ales; they're one of the great transition beers to enjoy before diving head first into the porters and stouts of the winter months.

One of the earliest English ales, Brown Ales were first brewed 800 years ago when malts were kilned over hardwood fires, giving the grain a brown color and smokey flavor. The term “Brown Ale” wasn’t introduced until the introduction of Porter in the early 1700s; before that they were simply called “Ales” because there basically was little delineation between beer styles.

For the next 100 years, Brown Ales would be used to describe Porters, Stouts and Milds. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that a distinction began to grow between the styles, when Brown Ales were made by making a Stout or Porter first, and then reusing the mash to produce a brown ale. What we think of as Brown Ales today didn’t come around until the late 1800s when Mann's Brown Ale in England helped relaunch the modern brown. But, it was Newcastle Brown Ale in 1925 that popularized the style. The style finally made It Stateside in 1986 with Pete’s Wicked Ale, a beer which also helped establish the American-Style brown ale.

Like Bock beers there are several recognized types of Brown Ales. English-Style Brown Ales are copper to brown in color. Brown porters are medium to dark brown in color with a low to medium malt sweetness and chocolate notes. Belgian-style Flanders are a deep copper to brown in color; they have a strong lactic sourness and usually an oak or woody character to them. German-Style Brown ales (also known as Dusseldorf-style AltBier) are copper to brown in color, with malt and a hop character. Lastly, there is the American-style Brown ale. Not surprising, it’s also deep copper to brown in color with medium roasted malt caramel and a chocolate-like character, and also no surprise, American-style brown ales are often more hopped than their counterparts.

Brown Ales typically come in around 3.3-5.2% ABV  , which makes them one of the easier session styles around.