Getting Down With Brown
We know it’s not easy being green and what it means when someone says they are feeling blue, but what does it mean to feel brown?
Well, I know exactly what it means to feel brown. It means I am feeling in need of an upliftng brown ale.Brown ales satisfy almost like no other style of beer. They are typically rich with malt and low on the hops end of things.But they get no respect. Perhaps it’s the generic sound of the name – a name that simply references the color of the style – that has relegated brown ales to the back burner of brewing.
Browns don’t generate the excitement that other styles do. In fact, a brown style known as “mild” was referred to as “old man’s beer” when I was a young man living in the East Anglia farm country of England.
Now, of course, I wish I had paid more attention to the various milds produced by different breweries of that time because I do believe it has become a forgotten style.
Now, as a more mature fellow, I can fully appreciate all that brown ales have to say, and they do have much to say. When I’m in a reflective mood, when I really want to relax and dig down deep into myself, I’ve found that a brown ale is the perfect accompaniment. It helps unlock the defenses put in place to plow through the daily world.
So, it was at the end of a tumultuous week that I was looking through the offerings on display at my local with no particular thing in mind when my eyes fell on a sixer of Fireside Flannel Brown Ale from Lift Bridge Brewing of Stillwater, Minn. Yes, I told myself, brown ale is exactly what you need. Some people get a massage after a trying week, but I prefer to sink into the buff depths of a tasty brown beer.
A conspiracy of lovely dark flavors gang up on the palate with the first sip. There’s a roasted nuttiness, café au lait, milk chocolate and an undefinable something of stygian quality, perhaps the dark waters of the mythical River Styx.
Fireside Flannel is an extremely dark brown ale, almost verging on black. That, for me, is not a problem. It explains the depth of flavors going on here, thanks to roasted malts, of course. Five malts are used in this beer – Maris Otter, Biscuit, Crystal, Special B (a dark crystal malt most often used in Belgian-style ales) and Chocolate.
The three varieties of hops used here – Northern Brewer, Goldings and Spalt – are merely a subtle tang at the end of the brown assault.
I had mine with an extra spicy order of leftover General Tso’s chicken from a Chinese takeout, and the Fireside Flannel both stood up to and complemented the fiery chicken bites. It made me think that there isn’t much you couldn’t pair this or any other brown with because brown plays well with others.