Showing posts with label brown ale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brown ale. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2018

What Impact Temperature?

While drinking the Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale used for last week's "Old Friends" post, I tweeted the following:



Having tweeted out this minor rantette, I decided that in the interests of science I would conduct a little experiment. Earlier that day I had purchased one of Sierra Nevada's Fall Packs, containing three bottles a piece of Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Torpedo Extra IPA, Vienna Lager, and Ruthless Rye IPA. I put a couple of bottles of Tumbler into the wine cooler, which sits at 54°F (12°C), and the third bottle in the fridge, at about 40°F (4.5°C), and there they remained for a week.

Yesterday I pulled the beers from their cool places in order to do a comparative tasting, though again in the interests of science I wanted to make sure that the same process was followed for both glasses of beer. As such I used the same US pint glass for both beers, washed between pints and allowed to settle back to room temperature. This decision was a sop to the kind of people that would claiming using different glasses would have impacted the aromas and flavours - I have done a mass experiment on this before and concluded that different glassware is largely irrelevant, other that parting a fool from his cash.

I also decided that I would leave an hour between drinks, and have a goodly amount of water to cleanse the old palate in order to avoid recency bias of the taste buds. First up then was the bottle that had been sat in the fridge.


The beer poured a rich chestnut brown, deeply luxuriant, and capped with a healthy half inch or so of dark ivory foam, too pale to be light brown, too dark to be plain ivory. The head just sat there, and sat there, and sat there, leaving a delicate lacing down the glass. The aromas coming through the head were lightly toasted bread, a bit of medium roast coffee, but mostly it was the smell of a pub carpet. I realise that sounds unappetising, but it is a smell that reminds me of going to the bar in the Sergeants' Mess when I was a kid, before dad would give us a stack of 10p pieces and tell us to bugger off to the pool room while the adults drank. The overwhelming taste was a nutty, medium dark chocolatey thing that was smooth with a roastiness that never bordered on the acrid, brought back in to focus with a clean hop bite. With the fridge beer thoroughly enjoyed, I cleaned out the glass and set it to one side for an hour.


After a hour of playing with my twin sons, and generally romping in domestic bliss, I came back to the experiment and poured the cellar temperature bottle of Tumbler into the now dry and room temperature glass. Again the beer was a rich chestnut brown, though as I poured there was a significantly bigger head, about an inch and a half, but it settled down to about the same half inch as previously, again lingering for the duration of the drinking, leaving a marginally more impressive lacing. The aroma was that of freshly baked bread, sprinkled with unsweetened cocoa powder, and a subtle floral hop thing going on. Missing entirely was the smell of a freshly opened boozer. This time the beer tasted of rich chocolate, with a light coffee roastiness, and the hop bite came with an earthy spiciness that didn't seem to be there in the fridge version.

This experiment was not about trying to prove that cellar temperature beer tastes better than refrigerated beer, but about the sensory differences induced by temperature. The colder beer had a smoother mouthfeel, as the hop bite evident in the cellar temperature version was missing almost completely. The cellar temperature had more pronounced malt flavours, not different, just deeper, and the body was fuller, perhaps rounder than the refrigerated one. One thing I wasn't really expecting was that the cellar temperature beer seems to have a more evident carbonation that the fridge one, which may explain the elevated hop character in that version. I wonder what impact being bottle conditioned had on the experiment, and perhaps I will perform the same experiment again with force carbonated beers.


One thing that was certainly clear from this experiment is that Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is an excellent beer, and was perhaps just the right beer for this experiment on a dreich afternoon. In my excitement each year for the new Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, I have overlooked what was once my favourite autumn beer, what a foolish thing to do. Perhaps brown ales are once again due their moment in the limelight, preferably without silly shit and fripperies to keep the trendseekers happy, just good old fashioned brown ale, as brown ale should be.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Old Friends: Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

One of my favourite days of the year is fast approaching, the September equinox. The equinox marks the proper end of summer and the onset of cooler temperatures, nights slowing drawing in, and taking the dog for a walk in the gloom. Autumn and winter have always been my favourite seasons, I am not much of one for heat, and even less so when that heat is overload with lashings of humidity. I am one of the few people I know that would be perfectly happy in Narnia, pre-Aslan overthrowing Queen Jadis that is.

The last few days here in central Virginia have been rather dreich, which is actually far more welcome than the possibility we were looking at this time last week, when Hurricane Florence was forecast to batter the Commonwealth. So, in the midst of all this rain, and with the boys settled for the night, I cracked open my latest old friend beer, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale.


Samuel Smith's is surely one of the least fashionable breweries on the planet, and a nut brown ale quite possibly the apogee of old man uncool, yet they make magnificent beer for which they are rightly lauded. In common with all the other beers I have chosen for an "old friends" post it was the realisation that it had been so long since I last had Nut Brown Ale that prompted me to pick up a half litre bottle while doing the weekly shop recently.

When I say recently, I mean a couple of weeks ago. For some reason the last couple of weekends have been pretty light on the booze front, I've enjoyed a few pints with lunch but when the evening comes and the boys are put to bed, I haven't fancied anything at all, and so the bottle sat. Thankfully said sitting was in our wine fridge, that's an official term given it has a ratio of 7:1 beer to wine in it, at a steady 54°F - perfect cellar temperature.


As I poured it into one of my Sam Smith's pint glasses, an annual treat to myself is a mix pack that comes with a glass and a few beer mats, a couple of things came to mind. Firstly, clear beer is a beautiful sight, and this was absolutely crystal clear. Secondly, that it was much lighter in reality than in the crevices of memory, where I expected a deep milk chocolate brown there was a shining polished mahogany, with flashes of auburn chestnut. God, this is a thing of beauty. The half inch of ivory foam that remained after I had scraped a knife across the rim lingered, and lingered, just sitting there like an obedient dog.

It's all good and well for a beer to look the part, ultimately it comes down to smell and taste, and Nut Brown is laden with subtle cocoa aromas, earthy hops, and a trace of coffee in there for good measure. Most of the aromas carry on over into the taste department, to be joined by something not unlike a slightly singed piece of toast with a spoon of rich dark honey on top, which tasted far better than it sounds. The malt definitely dominates here, but there is enough bitterness to ensure the beer doesn't cloy.


Nut Brown really was a wonderful beer for a dreich evening, smooth, comforting, autumnal, it was great to get re-aquainted and remind myself what fine company this is. As I sat looking out of the window at the rain pattering on the deck, I realised that brown ales have been scarce in the Velkyal household of late, that needs to change.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old Mann Brown

At the end of next month, my parents will be flying across the Pond to come and stay with us for a month. The last time they came was in 2010, just after I had a DVT removed from my right leg, and again they stayed for a month. The big difference this time will be that we now have a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom house rather than a somewhat pokey 1 bedroom apartment. There will be no sleeping on an airbed for 4 weeks for my wife and I, and my parents won't have to feel bad about having evicted us from our room. Oh an we have a garden for them to provide free labour for - some couples have grandchildren to foist on their parents, we will have tomato plants and bean poles. I am fairly sure they are looking forward to it!

My dad, in common with a lot of men of his generation, is a Londoner. The Griffin Brewery, home of Fuller's, would still be his local brewery if he hadn't joined up at 15 and spent the next 30 odd years in the pay of HM Queenie and Sons, PLC. Dad spent a lot of time in Germany, and has something of a love for good lagers, especially Schwarzbier. However, the one beer that Dad talks about more than any other is Mann's Brown Ale, the first (if I remember rightly) modern bottled brown ale. Again if I remember rightly, modern brown ale was essentially the bottled version of draught mild.

As you can imagine, I don't get home to the UK very often and so having my parents coming to stay is something special, more so because a couple of days after they arrive it is Dad's birthday. What better then than to attempt a recreation of Mann's Brown Ale? I am planning to brew this in the next week or so, and the recipe at the moment looks like this:
  • 80% Maris Otter
  • 10% Caramel 120
  • 4% Chocolate Malt
  • 4% Wheat Malt
  • 2% Roasted Barley
  • 14 IBU Kent Golding for 60 minutes
  • 6 IBU Kent Golding for 15 minutes
  • Windsor yeast
I am aiming for an Original Gravity of just 8.3° Plato, or 1.033, and expecting to get an abv of 3.2%, which is slightly higher than the original 2.8%. I put the recipe together based on what I have read in various sources about brown ale in general, and a couple mentioning Mann's in particular. Hopefully, Dad will like it and it will be fairly similar to what he used to drink.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tastes of Autumn

I can't remember who tweeted it, but someone the other day asked the question "pumpkin beers or Octoberfest lagers"?

As a committed devotee of all beers decocted, cold fermented and then cold conditioned, the answer is fairly obvious for me, give me a pint of Octoberfest any day of the autumnal week. There is also the fact that I just don't seem able to get along with pumpkin beers.

As for the actual Octoberfest seasonals that I have enjoyed so far this year, Samuel Adams is a solid as ever offering, and Bell's Octoberfest is a serious candidate for my lager of the year. Big juicy caramel malts and a dose of background bitterness for balance make this an insanely easy beer to drink. While at 5.5% abv it is no session beer (regardless of what the marketing mandarins have written on the website), it is a delicious brew for sitting at a trestle table with buxom wenchie types bringing you bratwurst laden with lashings of mustard. I only have about 30 more bottles of beer to drink before my self-imposed ban on buying bottled beer is finished with, once that is done with I can see this filling some of the available space.


There is of course more to autumnal drinking than Octoberfest and pumpkin beers, for this is the season when brown ale, whether "nut" or otherwise, makes its appearance. Sierra Nevada's Tumbler is a favourite of mine, and not just because they call it an "Autumn Brown Ale" rather than a "Fall Brown Ale", smooth, silken and luscious to drink. Speaking of Nut Brown Ale, it is around this time of year that I see the eponymous Samuel Smiths winking from the fridge and indulge.

Autumn, don't you just love it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Got Milk Stout?

Why is it that some beer styles suffer from an image problem? I have mentioned this before but when I was younger, brown ale was considered a old man's drink. Now that I am approaching the half way point of my allotted three score years and ten, I enjoy brown ale muchly and have started brewing my own - a northern style brown ale so far, and planning a recreation of Mann's Brown Ale.

Another beer which suffered an image problem when I was young was milk stout. Milk stout suffered the same kind of image problem as dark lager in the Czech Republic, it was a woman's drink. Czech tradition says that dark lager is for women because it gives a girl bigger breasts, milk stout was likewise recommended to nursing mothers for its nutritious value. Just a quick aside, there may be some scientific backing for these traditions as darker beer is apparently higher in oestrogen.

Anyway, I was in Beer Run on Friday because the Downtown Mall was preparing for the visit of Barack Obama to rally the troops for Tom Perriello (political note: if I could vote here, Tom would get my vote, if you can vote in the 5th District, please get out and vote for Tom), and I didn't want to deal with the guaranteed travel nightmare. Beer Run had a special on Friday night, where all the taps, and the handpull, were taken over by Terrapin Beer and Left Hand Brewing. Most of the 14 beers available were still there on Saturday when I met up with James from A Homebrew Log to trade beers and collect his entries for the upcoming Palmetto State Brewers' Open. Looking at the beer list, the only beer, other than the cask, that really took my fancy was Left Hand's Milk Stout.

What a nice pint that was! We were sat out on the patio, the sun was shining and the temperature was just about what you would expect, apparently, for a Virginia autumn day - not too cool, but fresh. What then could top an imperial pint of a rich, creamy milk stout that was insanely easy to drink? To be honest nothing could have topped that, it was the perfect beer for the time and place, so I had another, interjected though with a pint of the Left Hand Black Jack Porter, which was also very nice.

So yes, I will be hunting out more of the Left Hand Milk Stout, as well as whatever other milk stouts I can find, maybe I will brew one as well. One thing that came to mind over the weekend was how many more beer styles are there which I dismissed in my youthful ignorance that will loom over the horizon to steal a little corner of my zythophilic heart?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anything But Brown and Boring

Growing up in the far north west of Scotland, there were two main beer choices when you finally hit your 18th birthday for your first legal beer. The cool kids at school almost uniformly went for mass produced lagers, your Carlings, Fosters and Tennants of this world. Those outside the secondary school jet set drank Guinness, or Murphy's depending on which pub you went to. When you ventured to the mainland, quarterly trips to Inverness being the highlight of life pretty much (even Skye was a thrill!), pubs with bigger selections beckoned, Caffrey's or John Smith's in a pub rather than from a widgeted can was the height of excitement.

Yet, sat on the bar, seemingly forlorn was Newcastle Brown Ale, the old man beer. As far as I knew nobody drank it other than the old men. Brown ale had an image problem, it was boring. Fast forward nearly 20 years and I still hear the same way of thinking, though usually about bitter as well as brown ale, the so-called "boring brown beers" that Britain seems to excel at producing. A minor aside, it really pisses me off when Brits bash their native products, being lured by the glamour of sexy foreign imports with odd names and sufficiently pretentious ingredients to get mentioned in the Guardian.


Last weekend Mrs Velkyal and I went out with some of my Starr Hill tasting room colleagues for some post work drinkies. I say post work, it was for them post work, it was for me post brewing at Devils Backbone. Just round the corner from the Starr Hill brewery is a pub called Fardowners, and it is a good pub, with nice food, a good buzz and a decent selection of beer. On reading the draught beer selection (sorry I rarely drink a bottle when I go to the pub, I just don't see the point of that unless it is something rare), I was almost aghast when the only beer that appealed was a brown ale from Williamsburg Alewerks just a couple of hours up the road. Aghast purely because I had always thought of brown ale as old man beer, and well, who wants to admit they may be getting old?

Three fabulous pints later and I knew I needed to explore more in the world of brown ale, in particular American Brown Ale, I will however admit to Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale being something of a go to beer in the absence of anything else that take's my fancy. After digging around in the cellar, I found a couple of bottled versions of the Williamsburg Tavern Ale that had so delighted my palate, and as luck would have it, our local supermarket just got in Sierra Nevada's autumnal seasonal, Tumbler, a brown ale.


First up was the Williamsburg Tavern Ale, which poured a deep crimson with a thin, ivory head and then out of the bottle came the evidence of bottle conditioning, a happy surprise! Can we have more bottle conditioned beers over here please? The nose was just as I remembered from Fardowners, lots of cocoa off set with the slightest hoppy citrus thing. Drinking it was a wonderful balance of the sweet chocolate maltiness and the bitter bite of the hops, which are Cascade and Amarillo I believe, to round out the beer there is a soft toffee touch that makes it such easy drinking. Really it was wonderfully smooth and tasty, a great beer for sitting on the balcony in the autumn chill and just watching the sun go down over the turning leaves.


What can be said about Sierra Nevada that hasn't already been said? They nail classic styles so perfectly that it would be easy to drink nothing but Sierra Nevada and never get bored. Their Tumbler seasonal special, described as an "Autumn Brown Ale" rather than a "Fall Brown Ale" which I would have expected, pours a very dark copper, with a red tinge and a light tan head. Again the cocoa notes are there, but this time there is a tobacco smell - you know the kind of tobacco smell from people rolling their own, a smell I love by the way, even though I have never smoked in my life. Tastewise, again chocolate, but lighter than the Williamsburg brew, with caramel and biscuitiness thrown in for good measure, with a crisp hoppy bite in the background. Another beautifully balanced beer that you could drink all night.


Brown Ale in the hands of Sierra Nevada and Williamsburg Alewerks is anything but boring, it is well made, tasty and the kind of beer that makes you more than happy to have another, and then another. All round good stuff, if drinking this stuff makes me an old man, then the old men knew a thing or two.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Unexpected Treat

A bit late posting today, but there are mitigating circumstances your honour. I am travelling from Charlottesville in Virginia to the wilds of Dickinson, North Dakota on a business trip - tomorrow I am giving a presentation for a potentially lucrative contract. The problem is that I hate flying, and getting to North Dakota takes two flights and a couple of hours driving either side of the flying.

It was unexpected then as we strolled through Minneapolis airport with 90 minutes to spare before the second flight to find a brewpub on the concourse. I was grateful though because I needed a beer, and the beer I had was very nice indeed, a brown ale with Special B and chocolate malt, and a third malt I can't remember. The hops were listed as Willamette, and the beer went down a treat with the fish and chips I had for lunch, the being salmon, which was really good.

I might have to try making a brown ale soon as most of my darker beers are more in the porter and stout realm in terms of darkness, speaking of which, I bottled the peat smoke dark mild yesterday and I think I may have created a thing of beauty!

Here's to the first bottle in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

6 Beers, 18 Phrases - Southend Brewery and Smokehouse

On Tuesday Mrs Velkyal and I went to Charleston, down on the coast of South Carolina - ostensibly to go and see Charleston Battery get massacred by the Houston Dynamo in the Lamar Hunt Cup, the American equivalent of the FA Cup.

As we hadn't really celebrated our first wedding anniversary on Saturday, overshadowed by some local bash as it was, we decided to have a special lunch and visited the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse, a lovely place for lunch and a sampler tray (I have a feeling they will be a big part of life here for a while), here are my thoughts.

  • Southend Blonde - pale yellow, faint citrus, thirst quencher
  • Southend Blonde Light - pale, crisp, weak
  • Seasonal Ginger Ale - amber, grapefruit (amarillo?), refreshingly tart
  • Bombay Pale Ale - light copper, citrus aplenty, hoppy marmelade
  • East Bay Brown - crimson, caramel, smooth
  • Southend Oatmeal Stout - dark drown, coffee and smoke, lusciously smooth

Overall I left the Southend Brewery with very positive feelings, afterall I had some excellent beers, the service was perfect - I can't remember the girl's name but she was everything a waitress should be, and she was on the nail in recommending the Bombay Pale Ale. Only the two blonde ales did absolutely nothing for me, perhaps blondes aren't my thing (don't tell the wife!!). The Oatmeal Stout was up there with the Sam Smith's I luxuriated in last year, high praise indeed, and this is certainly a pub I will be visiting again when I get to Charleston again, although next time I hope the real Charleston Battery turn up!

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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