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Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'm Finally Down with Brown

Dogfish Head Indian Brown AleI am admittedly and unashamedly a fan of pretty much everything that Dogfish Head draws out of their tanks up there in Delaware ... of course, they are known and revered for pushing the limits of what beer is thought to be, and for using rather "extreme" ingredients in their brewing. These characteristics, of course, are a lot of fun to follow but this isn't all that DFH is about - they are by no means a one trick pony when it comes to beer-making.

The boys (and girls!) at DFH can truly throw down when it comes to taking more traditional beer styles, especially those that are ... let's face it ... typically a little on the boring side, and making them something truly special.

Take brown ale for example.

Normally I would probably say just that precisely, "no really, please take brown ale. I don't want it."

Brown ale, for me, is a lot like an "amber ale." Safe, balanced, subtle and ... ... boring! That's my preconceived notion, anyway, based on experience. There have been a few I've enjoyed well enough, but very few that have really impressed me. That's not the brewer's fault, per se, or even the beer itself considering it's just being true to it's style parameters, right? Right, but that doesn't mean I have to like ... I just have to respect it.

Dogfish Head has forced me to broaden my opinion once again. I can no longer make a sweeping statement like "Ah, browns and ambers don't do anything for me, they're just too plain!" Indian Brown Ale is a brown ale I can get behind. Possibly the most complex brown I've ever had the pleasure to sample, DFH proves once again that first impressions, along with preconceived notions, are about as reliable when it comes to beer-drinking as a spit shine of your primary fermenter is to beer-making.

In other words ... not at all!

Here is my review from notes of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale:

"Pours a very dark brown color with subtle red hues in the light. The head is tight, yet thin and presents itself a pale choclate color. A vigorous swirl of the large snifter brings the head to life for a brief moment and then it settles down again into a thin layer on the surface of the beer. The nose is rich and inviting, with dominant chocolate and roasted coffee notes intermingling with a slightly sweet caramel character. Aromatic and floral hop notes balance the richness of this beer making for a very complex array of aromas in the nose. The palate is also dominated by dark semi-sweet chocolate, espresso, and a very subdued dark caramel malt sweetness ( this beer is brewed with caramelized brown sugar) that balances the beer well against the bittering chocolate notes and the mildly acidic hop profile. I'm pleasantly surprised by a terrific "butterscotch-like" characteristic that makes this beer all the more interesting to me. The mouth feel is smooth, rich and never cloying. Adequate, but not aggressively carbonated, this beer is a study in the balance of sweet and dry flavors without leaning too heavily on either in my opinion. At 7.2% ABV, you might expect the alcohol to assert itself, but really never does except for the finish, which is pleasantly warm and smooth without being boozy. Otherwise the finish is quite dry with lingering notes of espresso in the mouth. A very, very complex brown ale in every regard. Once again, Dogfish Head had managed to take what I typically think of as a rather mundane beer style and kick it up several notches. This is not your father's brown ale. Incredibly rich, complex and challenging ... I'd be hard pressed to think of a brown ale I've ever had that I enjoyed nearly as much. I'm a fan. Possibly too high in alcohol to be considered a sessionable beer, but I could drink this one often and be thrilled about it. Dogfish Head - changing one man's opinion of brown ale, one beer at a time. I'll need more than one six-pack of this one. Terrific!"

If you haven't tried this beer - maybe because you're like me and think that brown usually equates to boring - do yourself a favor and pick some up. I don't think you'll be disappointed. You can read a little more about DFH Indian Brown Ale on their website here. Just to make absolutely sure that my opinion of brown ales will change forever, you may want to keep your eye out for a brand new brown ale from DFH called Palo Santo Marron (Holy Tree Brown) as well. Rather than go into detail here about this envelope-pushing brown, take a look at these two videos (Part I, Part II) I've reposted on the Aleuminati!* I think you'll be amazed.

(*You may have to register to view the videos, but let's face it ... it takes a minute or two .. and you also have the added benefit of being part of the (not so) secret society of better beer drinkers! It's a win/win!)


  1. As usual, Shawn, love your review. And, as usual, grinding my teeth that we can't get DFH out here to post a rebuttal review...

  2. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Regarding DFH Brown...If you think it is good bottled...try it draught! I had the good fortune to find it at the Van Schaick Island Country Club, in Cohoes, NY. The clubhouse is only 2 doors away, (the fairway runs behind my back yard), so the 7.2% was NOT an issue. I agree with the review..This from a Hefewiessen fanatic!!! Mike


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