Brown Beers Matter

IMG_0953The Session this month is a brown study; participants have been in ‘a state of deep absorption or thoughtfulness’ about the color brown and maybe even induced a moody daydream about brown beers.

In my limited experience a color divide remains in beer audiences, light versus dark.  Of course, brown beers fall right in the middle of this divide – darker than a pale ale but not yet donning the black.  One of my friends who accompanies me to Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, was at first ambivalent about this craft beer experience on which I was leading him. He only knew the macro’s. He drank some a cream ale that they offered at the time and was still on the fence. It was K-Town Brown that converted him.  It wasn’t overpowering but it had actual flavor and nuance.  Now he tells me that he’s been “ruined,” he can only drink real beer. I smile knowingly. Brown beers are good gateway beers. Well, in this instance, at least.

In the beer world we have brown ales, brown porters, altbiers, schwarzbiers and rauchbiers, perhaps; mild ales and barley wines sometimes have a solid brown color; to me, some reds seem to border on brown but maybe it’s just the school I attended.  There are certainly more. They are not all suited to the gateway experience as noted above; it would be a dubious experiment to introduce a beer novice to the woody smokiness of a rauchbier.

Stouts and porters are my favorites but a brown beer is just as tantalizing and neither drab nor boring. I have a home brew recipe for a dark mild which I have made several times; perhaps that’s why I’m partial to British browns, dark mild ales and the American brown. These beers all seem to have a sunset at their edges, orange and calming. Generally they have a faux ivory collar that’s a little sticky. It is as sugary at commencement as it is dry at denouement, like a Stirling engine of taste. Sometimes walnut flavors arrive. K-Town Brown noted above was enjoyable and Wagonwheel, also offered occasionally at Black Bridge, is one of my all-time favorite brown ales.  Ask for them when on tap, you will not be disappointed.

Brown ales also pair well with food. Pretty much any food. It is a beer for all ages, for all tastes, for all occasions.  I used to drink Pete’s Wicked with every dinner.  Well, it seems so in memory.  Pete’s was a wickedly delightful brown … .  Newcastle is overrated.  I hope that does not cause a ruckus.  It’s just my opinion and can be dismissed if you disagree.  Cheers.  Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale is a good choice for a brown.  Oh, and Oak Creek Brewing in Sedona, Arizona has a Nut Brown Ale, too, that’s worth a pint.

For more discussion of brown beers and Black Bridge’s contributions, listen to  the first half of the first episode of the Cartoon Casual podcast.  It’s produced by two locals, Joe Fellers and Paul Gaines.  And as both Joe and Paul will tell you, the show could be offensive to some so use discernment.

The color brown is a study in contrast. It is the hue and tincture of earth and soil, wood and bark, hair and flesh. Earth is our source and home, the surface upon which our diverse temples are built. These bodies are our avatars in this reality allowing concourse and conversation. Logic would indicate we hold these things in high regard.

Therefore, brown can represent quality. The best food, the best drink, the best friends. “Some browns can show a degree of sophistication or elegance, depending on other colors associated with the brown. For example, brown with a soft white or ivory can appear stylish and classy,” states the website Empowered By Color.  Not convinced?  Here …

iu-2Hepburn.  The epitome of stylish and classy.  In a brown hat.

Yet, … “According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, brown is the least favorite color of the public; the color most often associated with plainness, the rustic, and poverty.” Brown can be perceived as drab and boring and even as stingy or cheap. Quite a contrast!

Maybe browns just seem common, wonted.  I mean, they were pretty much the only kind of a beer for a time.  Isn’t that one of the reasons pilsner became such a thing?  People were all, “hey,  it’s …. yellow.”  Indeed, there is an everyman motif to the brown beer.  There is no creative flair associated with them, peradventure. In other words, no awesome hops bouquet or astronomical IBU rating. No heavily roasted grain profile. No eccentric ingredients.  I have nothing against the aforementioned qualities; they all have their rightful place in the beer pantheon.  Browns are honest, straightforward beer.  Of course, that does not mean none of those things can be added to the brown.

Oh, another aspect of brown – people with brown eyes “are the greatest kissers of all.”

Pretend that glass of brown beer is a kiss from your favorite brown-eyed girl … or guy.  And introduce them to a possibly overlooked beer style.



Flotsam, Jetsam and Me

Black Butte Porter Cap

I like to feature bottle caps in some of my pictures. Something about how they are bent is intriguing. It’s a reminder of the cool physics and chemistry at work in the drink ready to be consumed. It’s also a symbol of craft beer; none of those silly twist-off caps here …

This picture also has a nice shot of the beer label. Some of them are intriguing such as this  from Speakeasy. Cool black and white skyline, a dirigible.  This label seems to reference the Prohibition time period, but also seems steampunk-ish.  Cool.

What?  There should always be plenty of bottle openers around.  I really like the ring opener.  I’ve made that and the blue multitool (with a bottle opener) part of my everyday carry (EDC).  There are probably one or two openers that I forgot to include in this picture.  Truly, it would be hard to remove the above noted bottle caps without a bottle opener.  I think they deserve to be included in the “tangential” category of this month’s Session.

Coasters are useful for protecting tables and also starting conversations.  We recently went to Las Vegas and met some new friends.  While at lunch, I noticed our host had several coasters on his table – all from craft breweries.  So, we had an instant connection and one source for locution.  Had a great time.

The coaster below was acquired at a Great American Beer Festival a few years ago.



And one other interesting piece of detritus:



Yes, a pallet.  And because it pleases me, I imagine it came directly from the Sapporo brewery.

My First Belgian: The Session Number Ninety-One


The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

The topic that Elisa and I have chosen for this month’s Session is ‘My First Belgian.’

My first Belgian home brew I named Clawed. Herein lies the recipe:

2 lbs Belgian Pale malt
7 lbs 6 row
2 oz Sterling hops (boil)
1 lb candi sugar
Wyeast 1214

I do not recall any of the mash particulars. It was a five gallon batch. This was about five years ago.

It was a good beer, close to what I supposed a Belgian beer should be – orange and mysterious. There are two beers that I want to brew again – this one and a barley wine I made fifteen years ago. Maybe some day …

Clawed was well received, by me and those to whom I gave a bottle or two. I don’t think this beer was terribly Belgiany otherwise many of the beer recipients would have been terrified by it. However, it had just the right amount of citrusy spice to make it appealing. It was made during a summer, so it was refreshing, too.

The Belgian beers I’ve had possess an intangible quality that appeals to me yet is hard to convey. Certainly there’s the spice, the earthiness, the venerable moth-eaten pall of long storage; but there’s also the tastual juxtaposition of this libation. It’s a beer, but it’s not a beer. These Belgian creations are never what you expect. That sense of discovery, experimentation and surprise.

I do not think I crafted that essence. But, it was a shadowy homage to the beer legends. At some point, I shall go forth and attempt it once more.

Beer Culture of the US

This is my contribution to the Session. The subject is …

What … has America done to beer?‘, AKA, ‘USA versus Old World Beer Culture‘. It was chosen by Ding’s Beer Blog. Follow the links to learn more about both The Session and Ding.

The question should be ’what hasn’t America done to beers?’ I just finished reading Mr Ding’s (sounds weird, yes just trying to be respectful in my own sarcastic fashion) blog post about this subject. Now I feel ridiculous trying to fashion further thoughts.

Why try, then, right? Right. I’m just a foolish American with little culture. That’s not sarcasm. My drinking associate and I have often discussed the dearth of real history in culture in this country. However, perhaps I’m really just thinking of the western US. It’s got to be the youngest culture on earth. Right, I mean there are new countries being formed but usually it’s the same people, same culture – just new boundaries.

So I see the western US the little kid of the world. What’s it gonna do but imitate and go over the top in said imitation? Oh, your Tonka truck can hold that much dirt? Look I can bury mine!

What has that yielded? I am not the sublime cultural critic Mr Ding is. None of these points will be as salient as his or other bloggers. I do think, though, that he pointed out two quintessential American traits: irreverence and consumerism.

The irreverence has given us: Ridiculously Increased Hop Rates. Honestly, did Sierra Nevada really need to create Hoptimum? Did I really need to stand in line at a beer festival to taste it? And it also led to: Consistency and Blandness. This has been detrimental to beer culture and has already been discussed at length. For years.

I do appreciate the home brewing community, though, and its do-it-yourself attitude. Is there an “old world” equivalent? Other than the Dark Ages? I suppose home brewing hearkens back to the alewives of yestercentury. Cool. I think home brewing is a good answer to consumerism, though. Repurpose all this commercial stuff into useful brewing apparatus. Grow hops at home. I want to try some hydroponic barley gardening, myself.

The Session #70 – The Hyping of the Beer

To publicize or promote, especially by extravasession_logo_all_text_300gant, inflated, or misleading claims.

That’s what I found to describe “hype”.  This month’s beer blogging topic is all about the hyping of beer.   Here are some examples that I thought of regarding beer hype.

  • Budweiser – “king of beers”. Utter marketing hype. No one believes this. Not even the family.
  • Coors – “rocky mountain water.” Whatever.

This kind of hype has nothing to do with the beer; it’s all marketing, of course. Crafters are all about the beer and not the marketing. Does the craft beer world still get beer hype (sounds icky, like a communicable disease)? I guess.

  • Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada is often touted as the “greatest American barley wine.”  It’s Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale with even more hops.  This is like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is the greatest action hero because he has the most muscles.  Honestly couldn’t taste anything but Cascade.
  • Anything from Dogfish Head. Granted, Calgione is a good brewer and his story is textbook for brewers looking to start their own brewery. I dig it; he’s cool and his beers are usually unique. But, seriously, this guy could package his own urine and somehow it would become “the greatest imperial blahblahblah with just a hint of … Earthiness.”  Whereas Sierra Nevada and others seem to just infuse hops into anything, Dogfish seems to triple the malt content of any recipe and toss in something weird from the attic.

There may be other examples, but I live just to the left of the middle of nowhere so I don’t hear of (or get to drink) a huge amount of beers.

Does hype affect our perception? Sure. In fact, if I try a beer that’s been touted as ’the best whatever’ and I just don’t appreciate it , then I feel like an idiot, like I must have missed something.

But then I also feel like an idiot when someone asks why a certain beer I’m drinking is so wonderful and all I can say is, “well, uh, New Belgium (or whoever) makes it.”  I’m doing that right now with Shiner beers. They won medals, I’m drinking up. Well, that and they are from Texas and I’ve got this thing for Texas and frontier history at the moment.

So, anyway,  beer is art, which in turn is a glimpse into the soul.  This glimpse resonates differently in each person. Thus, I don’t think there is any reason to state that any beer is “the best ever.” Everyone experiences it in a different way.

A beer can be cited as a proper example of a style. That makes sense. “This is what a brown ale should taste like,” that kind of thing.  If a properly certified and reputable critic of beer points that out I suppose listening to that particular brand of hype can be forgiven. Then again, that’s what happened with the Shiner beers I am drinking.

I must be missing something, but, whatever, they’re from Texas.