Fall. Most people think of changing leaves, Thanksgiving, great football, or perhaps those Life Alert commercials. Me? Nothing screams fall quite like a brown ale. Fall, to a beer drinker, means the weaning off of hoppier, lighter IPAs, lagers, and sours to something a little more rustic, a little more hearty. The problem with fall beers? You can’t skip the season right into winter. In other words, you might want to save those stouts and porters for December – February. So what’s just a little bit lighter than those guys? Yup, brown ales. AleSmith, brewed right out of sunny San Diego brings us their offering of a Nut Brown Ale (but being brewed in CA makes you wonder what in the hell do they know about colder weather). Anywho, with the beer in hand, I had to run those numbers:
Appearance: Pours a very dark brown color with a light tan head. The head dissipates fairly quickly, but this guy left some nice lacing behind. It has a dark brown body with hues of amber; a really beautiful color for a brown ale and looks tasty.
Smell: Raisins, figs, nutmeg, freshly baked bread, dried dates – quite hearty. Smells nice and malty with no real presence of hops.
Taste: Darker than most browns. Starts with a burnt plasticy taste, but then morphs into darker, more enjoyable flavors. Roasted coffee is one of the flavors that stands out and lingers with this beer in addition to its dark malts. Some hazelnut appears after the coffee taste. You have to really search for it, but dates and figs find their way towards the finish. Mouthfeel is pretty thick and hearty which leads to a very satisfying brew. There is slight bitterness, but nothing too overwhelming (to be expected for a brown), and it tastes much more like a stout than a traditional brown – its surprisingly roasty (which I love). I think this beer would also taste great just below room temperature, so if you pick one up, leave it out for a little bit before prying. The 5% ABV remains buried within the beer – the flavors of fall really shine here. One of the better browns that I’ve had; I’d call it the Indian Brown Ale of the West Coast.
Overall: B+. I would buy this again, but the plasticy taste at the beginning throws you off. It does redeem itself with its very rich and dark characteristics. Churchill would be proud of this beer, and I can certainly picture an old, curmudgeony Englishman enjoying a pint of this at his favourite pub. It’s a working man’s beer and is great for what it is. I’d enjoy this in November because its too dark to be an early fall beer and it’ll lead you nicely into stout season. A no frills beer with great malty characteristics is just what the doctor ordered after raking up all those fallen (help, I can’t get up!) leaves.