While American Browns are similar to their British cousins, they are more robust. American versions tend to be less sweet, less malty, more toasty and with more hop bitterness and American Hop flavors. There’s a strong malt backbone, a bit of roast, caramel and chocolate and piney and citrusy American hops. Some may be nutty, but are less so than English Browns. A low amount of fruity yeast esters may be tasted.
American Browns can range from reddish brown to dark brown, with an SRM* of 18-35. American Browns are typically malt forward, but hoppier than than English brown, with IBUs* ranging from 20-40. Browns are very easy drinking, with a ABV* ranging 4.3% up to 6.2%, but usually in the low fives.
Brooklyn Brown Ale is one of the best and oldest examples of American Brown. I love this beer. It’s a trailblazer, first brewed in 1989 and the second beer in Brooklyn’s regular lineup. You’ll notice chocolate in the aroma and flavor, along with hints of coffee and faint fruitiness. It’s dry hopped and has a noticeable hop aroma and bitterness many Browns don’t have. Yet, the bitterness is delicate compared to Pales and IPAs and the roasty, chocolate malts are center stage. It has a lightly sweet and lingering bitter finish.
Besides Brooklyn, there are a lot of other good browns available throughout the country. Here are some of my favorite American Browns: Against the Grain The Brown Note, SweetWater Georgia Brown, Bell’s Best Brown, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, Lost Coast Downtown Brown and Avery Ellie’s Brown.
Browns are fantastic with ribs with a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce. Pulled pork is another great match for Browns. The roast flavors in the beer work well with the meat’s smokiness while the hop bitterness cuts through the fat. Char-grilled steaks are also a good match, for a lot of the same reasons. For cheese pairing, go with a Gouda or Aged Cheddar.
Like Amber Ales, there is no specific glass for Browns, so any suitable glass for American ales will work. The Spiegelau Lager Glass is great for most American descendant of traditional British ales. Of course, a tulip glass makes virtually every beer smell and taste better.
*Standard Reference Method
*International Bitterness Units
*Alcohol by Volume
All quantitative specifications are from the BJCP Style Guide.