Tag Archives: Upslope

Striking Craft Beer Gold in Boulder (The Front Range Series)

Park lands and cycling trails, winter sports, an interesting mix of people, a college town vibe, the Flatirons, three hundred days of sunshine a year, and, of course, world-class craft beer. What’s not to like about Boulder, Colorado? Last time, I checked out a few breweries and brewpubs (such as Twisted Pine and the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery) within walking distance of one another. This set of impressionistic musings picks up where the last one left off, and explores some of Boulder’s breweries reachable by bicycle or car.

Avery Brewing Co.

Innovation is alive, well, and thriving in the shadow of the Rockies. Not far from the place where rivers of generic beer brewed with pure Rocky Mountain water and High Country Barley rise, veteran Front Range craft breweries like Avery continue to challenge our conception of beer.Avery - NewFacility (averybrewing-com) Avery first opened its doors way back in 1993, and demand for its stable of year-round offerings like Ellie’s Brown Ale, White Rascal Wit, and Out of Bounds Stout continues to grow –– so much so that Avery just celebrated its Grand Opening at its new 96,000 square-foot facility in the Gunbarrel district of northeastern Boulder.

But those solid year-rounds and more limited hefty offerings like The Reverend, Rumpkin, and The Beast aren’t the main reason to head straight to the source. No, a journey to Boulder gives you the chance to try beers that don’t make it beyond the taproom walls, beers like IPAs dry-hopped in accordance with the season, caffeinated variations on the stout theme, and one-and-done beers from the Avery Ermita barrel-aged sour series. As with any brewery that is constantly experimenting, what I tasted when I visited might not be what you get to taste.

The rich and full-bodied Fall Day IPA came infused with Colorado spruce tips, adding a beguiling fir needle aroma to the tangerine-grapefruit hop signature. A supple wall of clean but caramel-toasty malt supported a subtle coniferous character well integrated with citrus zest and mango.Avery - Samplers (averybrewing-com) A compelling IPA, to be sure. Out of Mind Stout blends in Ozo’s Organic Coffee Toddy for a café au lait-style stout that showcases roasted malts and various shades of chocolate and dried fruit (prune-fig). Baking spice (clove-cinnamon) mingles with a warming, Kahlua-like alcohol presence, and the beer finishes dry and bitter –– a tad to bitter, perhaps. I really enjoyed this stout, but found myself wanting just a bit more roundness and smoothness on the palate.

If you like American brown ales, chai, and autumnal spice mixes, the rich and russet-coloured Bhakti Chai Brown will be right up your alley. The initial aromas and flavours of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in this unique and satisfyingly off-dry beer yield gently to toasted malts and just a hint of citrus. For something heading in a completely different direction from Avery’s chai brown, try a glass from the Ermita series, which has now stretched over eight editions. When I visited, the Ermita I tasted was a blond Brettanomyces-fermented ale aged in neutral wine barrels and infused with key limes. Hazy orange-gold like liquid caramel, this whimsical yet complex sour layered a restrained tropical fruit Brett character and citric-sour aromas over a bed of fresh grain and light brown sugar scented with clove. Key lime bursts forth on the palate, a touch of oak fills out the waifish body, and a coconut-mango sweetness tames the citrus-sour character before the key lime reasserts itself in the pleasant bitter-lime finish. A playful drink with plenty of surprises.

Servers at Avery are extremely knowledgeable. Samplers served in elegant flutes go for between $1.50 and $6. And the new location offers a food menu –– a nice improvement over the previous location on Arapahoe. Cider-brined rabbit and waffles, anyone?

Asher Brewing Company

In a town with as progressive a flair as Boulder, you’d almost expect to find a handful all-organic breweries. Not so. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009.Asher - FrontRangeCan II (Organic-Soul-Imaging) If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Chris Asher’s brewery, Asher is just as concerned that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will enjoy the floral-citrus explosion of the weightier Greenade Double IPA. Asher also sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. Asher Brewing Company is tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park located in the Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder. Even if the area is off the beaten path, the views of the mountains at sunset more than compensate for the trip out. (See my “Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company” for a longer article on this environmentally-conscious brewery.)

Upslope Brewing Company

Like many breweries in the Front Range area, Upslope is located in an industrial park a short remove from the center of town. And like all these breweries located in seemingly out-of-the-way warehouse units, Upslope draws in the crowds. Upslope shares other elective affinities with its Front Range neighbours as well: a healthy concern for the environment.IMG_9307 Matt Cutter, Upslope’s co-founder, uses a compressed-natural-gas van for deliveries, and recaptures as much of the water he uses from the Arapahoe Glacier as he can. (Indeed, “snowmelt” is listed as the first ingredient on all of Upslope’s packaged products.) Upslope is also near a busy bike path, so you can park your car and get some exercise before you tuck into their beer.

After an afternoon wandering around in the mountains west of Boulder, Upslope’s crisp and deftly crafted beers made for a refreshing early evening taproom session. The full-bodied and floral-spicy Czech-style Craft Lager set the tone, and the pepper- and coriander-spiced Wit with citrusy wheat and crisp slate notes added a bit more zing to the lively conversation that was unfolding at the bar. The Original Pale Ale features the Patagonian hop, an Argentinian-grown Cascade that Upslope began using to weather the hop shortage of 2008. Toasty honeyed malt, marmalade, and tropical fruit (papaya) predominate in this effervescent beer, opening out onto traces of marzipan, fresh oats, and a mild citrus-grapefruit spiciness not unlike some white wines.Upslope Brown (upslopebrewing-com) Upslope also brews a slightly smoky and delightfully pecan- and hazelnut-accented Brown Ale that, as I noted in between snippets of conversation at the taproom, was “one of the nicer browns I’ve had.” A half year later, I picked Upslope’s Brown Ale second (behind none other than Sam Smith’s Nut Brown) in a blind tasting of brown ales for my “Brown Beers Get No Luvin’” six-pack.

Since I last visited Upslope, the brewery has opened a second taproom location in Flatiron Park to keep up with demand, and has begun packaging some of its limited edition beers (such as their Thai-Style White IPA, Christmas Ale, and Foreign-Style Stout).

Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Tom Horst and family had been brewing popular beers out of their garage for several years in Sunshine Canyon, a scenic drive into the mountains west of Boulder.Crystal Springs - Logo (large) It wasn’t until October of 2013, though, that this Boulder High School music teacher with a Ph.D. in percussion moved their nano-sized Crystal Springs operation into a new and larger-capacity facility on the other side of Boulder.

The name of Horst’s brewery pays tribute to an earlier, pre-Prohibition incarnation of Crystal Springs that was first opened by two German brothers on a site overlooking Boulder Creek. Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company did not survive Prohibition, but Horst is bent on assuring that the legacy lives on in his latter-day reiteration of the brewery, even if that legacy no longer involves cutting blocks of ice to keep the Bock cold.

Speaking of Bockbier, alas, Crystal Springs’ Wuerzburger wasn’t yet on tap when I stopped by just before their Grand Opening, but I did get a chance to sample a few of their other flagship beers.Crystal Springs - Bottle (historical) Solidly in the American brewing tradition, South Ridge Amber amber derives its fullness from crystal and Munich malts, and features a liberal sprinkling of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos hops. The Summertime Ale started life as a seasonal offering, but quickly became popular enough to merit year-round production. It has all the delicate fruitiness of a German-style Kölsch, with pear and citrus notes combining with a peppery spiciness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. (“Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer” incorporates some of Boulder’s brewing history and lore.)

Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

Just seventeen miles into the hills out of Boulder along the winding Highway 119, roughly-hewn Nederland provides one of the more stunning backdrops in the region for a pint of beer. Nestled among a row of frontier-era facades, Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery greets you with the soothing wood smoke scent of barbeque and winter fires long before you’ve found the sign above the door. Purple and green walls and a cathedral ceiling suspended over a fireplace create a laid-back ski lodge vibe. The space is bathed in natural light during the day, with a garage door-style opening bidding you to spend some time on the terrace in warmer months contemplating the dense pine forests rising up the mountain on the other side of town.

When it comes time to sample the wares, the “brew-ski” is your best bet. The brew-ski is just as you’re probably imagining it –– a ski with beers on it–– and comes with four of whichever house brews are on tap at the time of your visit, along with a guest beer.IMG_9306 For tasting notes, check out my “Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque,” which includes a brief history of Nederland and its off-beat annual Frozen Dead Guy Days. Wild Mountain’s house brews are hit-and-miss, but the smoked and grilled wings are sublime. And you won’t be disappointed at all by the scenery.

Postscript: If you’re a homebrewer who has just moved to the area, or if you’re into all things fermentable (kvass, yogurt, kombucha, and the like), check out Boulder Fermentation Supply opened up recently by Adam Kandle. I first met Adam at Upslope when he stopped in on his way back from the hills with a backpack full of prickly pears for mead.

Related Tempest Articles

Boulder: Craft Beer at the Foot of the Mountain (Northern Front Range Series)

Craft Beer in the Mile-High City: Colorado’s Northern Front Range Series

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company


Avery new facility and sampler: Avery Brewing Company

Asher can with mountain: Courtesy of Asher Brewing Co. and Organic Soul Imaging

Upslope interior: F.D. Hofer

Upslope Brown: Upslope Brewing

Crystal Springs logo and bottle: Courtesy of Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Wild Mountain sign: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

At the Foot of the Mountain: Boulder’s Brewpubs and Breweries

Boulder - FlatironsAutumn (WikiCommons)Long famous for mining and ranching, Boulder and its neighbouring Front Range towns have successfully tapped a more fluid natural resource in recent decades. Few could have predicted the seismic impact that Colorado craft beer would have on our contemporary drinking habits when Boulder Brewing Company threw open its doors in 1979. But even if Colorado has slipped out of the top three in the U.S. in terms of breweries per capita and absolute number of craft breweries, you could still make a convincing case that the Front Range region of Colorado remains the epicenter of North American craft beer. Nearly 50,000 craft beer enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver each October. And two of the most influential organizations that advocate on behalf of craft beer and craft breweries, the Brewers’ Association and the American Homebrewers’ Association, are headquartered in Boulder.

* * *

Morning had come and gone when I began to weave my way along the interstates and highways leading from Denver to Boulder. Eternal sunshine and strip malls for miles. And then, in an instant, all that is suburban melts into air. To one side, the plains open up to embrace the northeast and southeast as far as the eye can see. Before me, in the shadow of the sheltering Flatirons watching over Boulder like so many dragons’ teeth, the town spills languidly out into the flatlands. BoulderColorado (Photochrome Print ca 1900 - Public Domain)This vibrant college town renowned for its casual mix of yoga practitioners, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and outdoors enthusiasts is so close to Denver it could easily have been swallowed up like so many Austin exurbs. Why all this open space protecting Boulder from the encroachment of Denver? The story dates back to 1898 when a visionary city council took the lead in purchasing land that was slated for gold exploration. Shortly thereafter, and with the help of a public bond, the civic authorities purchased Flagstaff Mountain. These actions set in motion a series of land acquisitions that set the stage for a 1967 voter-approved sales tax geared specifically toward the purchase and maintenance of open space. Not only did the 1967 measure pass with 57% of the popular vote; in 1989, 76% of voters elected to increase the Open Space Tax nearly one-hundredfold.

* * *

I tie up my grey mule at the foot of the mountain and head back in the direction of town along the creek. A block or so beyond the bridge I come across the lively, pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall, packed with funky cafés without a buck or a star in them, plenty of eateries and brewpubs, and a handful of used bookstores. Used bookstores, a dying breed!IMG_9288 I wiled away a few hours plucking this book and that off the stacks before I remembered why I came to Boulder.

And now for some beer …

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery

When I stepped into the subdued psychedelia of the Mountain Sun, I felt, for a moment, as if I had stepped back in time into a café or eatery on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. This animated Boulder institution opened in 1993 and attracts a twenty-something standard-issue college crowd with a few hale mountaineering types and understated hipsters thrown in for good measure. 1960s Berkeley and a Westerner’s interpretation of Kathmandu collide in this cheerful space where New Age suns smile benevolently on South Asian wall hangings.Mtn Sun - Interior 1 (www-mountainsunpub-com) The food is cooked slow, and you can pay with cash, cheque, or karma envelope. And not a TV in sight.

I tucked into a healthy meal of vegetarian black bean chili and a spinach salad dressed with a garlic herb dressing and blue cheese while I sipped my way through samples of Mountain Sun’s beer. The FYIPA is a local favourite, and with good reason. Four kettle additions of four hop varieties plus one large dose of dry hops yields a refreshing, citrus-and-pine-inflected beer anchored by richly textured malt.

But it was the Colorado Kind Ale and the Annapurna Amber Ale that really won me over. The Colorado Kind is an amber-copper ESB that combines a floral-citrus Cascade hop presence and caramelized brown sugar malts into a toasty potpourri of ginger and autumn baking spices. Firm bitterness up front shades into an earthy spiciness and toffee-caramel richness cut through by bitter grapefruit near the finish. Slightly darker and reminiscent of chai tea in colour, the Annapurna Amber Ale shines the spotlight on malt aromatics of toasted caramel, milk chocolate, and plum.Mtn Sun - Exterior 1 (www-mountainsunpub-com) Creamy and velvety on the palate, maraschino cherry and amaretto mingle with bright cocoa in this rounded, full-flavoured beer that put me in the mind of a mild Scotch ale.

I visited Mountain Sun in autumn, but if you’re in town round about now and are a fan of stouts like I am, you’ll be happy to know that February is Stout Month. Twenty-three different house-brewed stouts and an additional twenty-three guest stouts make me want to brave the winter weather some day for a February journey back to Boulder.

West Flanders Brewing Company

Not far down the Pearl Street Mall is a much newer brewpub that serves up a completely different vibe: West Flanders Brewing Company. Iron beams support a corrugated metal awning that shelters outdoor imbibers and welcomes everyone else into a tastefully lit brasserie with cream-coloured walls and polished wooden floors.WestFlanders - Logo As the name would suggest, Belgian beer is given pride of place in the tap lineup, but aside from the well-executed Basil-Garlic Moules Frites with Malt Aïoli, I was left wishing for more dining options beyond the standard, if upscale, brewpub menu fare. As I was on my way to meet an acquaintance somewhere else and had just stopped in for a quick bite, I didn’t have time to sample more than a few beers. Of the ones I tasted, the Angry Monk, a Belgian-style Dubbel, had all of the caramel, brown sugar, plum-cherry, rum-raisin, spicy pepper, and honeyed fig aromatic notes you’d expect from a Dubbel, but with a slightly distracting banana twist. I preferred the Woodshed Porter, which bore the pleasant wood-smoked hallmark of Bamberg malts, freshly ground dark-roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a mixture of dried fruit, leather, and licorice root across the palate and into the aftertaste.

Walnut Brewery

Every road trip coughs up a dud or two, and Walnut Brewery was the clear standout in this category. Not only does the space look like just about any other generic sports bar with a bit of wood slapped onto to the walls to warm up the flat-screen ambience; the frat kid bartender rendered detached service that bordered on surliness. Now, I’ve lived in countries where brusque service is more the norm than the exception, but Walnut’s ho-hum beers don’t compensate for the deficiencies in service and setting. Apparently this old stalwart has a few GABF medals under its belt, but it doesn’t seem to have kept up over the years. You can find much better beer and ambience a stone’s throw or short bike ride away.

Twisted Pine Brewing Co.

With an unwavering focus on experimentation and new beers tapped roughly once per week, Twisted Pine is the kind of place where you’re likely to encounter a beer that has, itself, met with some unlikely ingredient like wasabi.Twisted Pine - Taps (twistedpinebrewing-com) On the Sunday afternoon that I stopped by to catch up with an old friend now teaching at UC Boulder, we took advantage of the 5 X 5-oz pours for $10. Crisply acidic and light in body, the Razzy Raspberry Espresso Stout combined raspberry jam with dark coffee and a roasted accent reminiscent of jalapeno. Heftier was the Rhesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, with its harmonious blend of smoky dark chocolate and restrained nuttiness. You may or may not see all of these beers when you pay a visit to this wood-accented industrial-chic taproom tucked away in an industrial park east of downtown. But if you’re a fan of beers that amp up the heat, Billy’s Chilies beer is, by all accounts, a constant fixture in the ever-rotating lineup. Let’s just say that I didn’t actively dislike this beer. Of the set, the Kölsch-style beer was the only one that pushed the envelope of normality.


Tempest’s series on Colorado’s Northern Front Range rumbles on. Next up: “Boulder Further Afield,” featuring, among others, Avery and Upslope. The compendium of articles I have been and will be rolling out is eons from exhaustive––who among us can conceivably take in the bounty of craft beer in the Denver, Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins areas over the course of a few trips? This is a happy conundrum indeed. Feel free to chime in with a comment about your own favourite brewery and taproom gems in the Front Range region.

Related Tempest Articles

Striking Gold: Boulder Breweries Further Afield (Northern Front Range Series)

Craft Beer in the Mile-High City: Colorado’s Northern Front Range Series

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Further Reading

For more on how Boulder elected to tax itself, see the sections on Boulder in Nate Cavalieri, Adam Skolnick, and Rowan McKinnon, Lonely Planet: Colorado (Lonely Planet Publications, 2011).

Ed Sealover, Mountain Brew: A Guide to Colorado’s Breweries (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011), provides a comprehensive snapshot of the Colorado craft beer scene. New breweries have opened in the years since, but the book is still an invaluable resource for your explorations of all things Colorado beer.

The City of Boulder’s website includes information on history, cultural events, cycling and hiking trails, industries, and festivals. I hadn’t heard the term used before, but the City of Boulder refers to the area as the Napa Valley of craft brewing. That works.


A crisp fall morning in Boulder, Colorado. 01 November 2010. Eddyl (Wiki Commons).

Photochrome Print of Boulder circa 1900 (Public Domain, Wiki Commons).

The Foot of the Mountain, F.D. Hofer.

Mountain Sun Pub, interior and exterior: www.moutainsunpub.com

West Flanders logo: http://wfbrews.com

Twisted Pine taps: http://twistedpinebrewing.com

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Raise your hand if brown beer is one of your all-time favourites.

… … …          … … …          … … …Newcastle_Brown_Ale_6-pack (WikiCommons-LokkoRobson)Just as I expected: not too many hands.

Brown beers get no luvin’. Maybe it’s our infatuation with IPAs and IBUs. Maybe it’s brown beer’s vaguely middle-of-the-road status: Brown ale has precious little in common with a lager, Pils, cream ale or Kölsch, and doesn’t quite match the intensity of most porters and stouts. Brown ale ranges in colour from dark amber to chestnut to copper-brown, sometimes even dark brown. But other beers that aren’t subject to the brown beer stigma share these characteristics as well, like some pale ales and old ales.

Some English bitters flirt with the outer edges of brown––no less brown than a Sam Smith Nut Brown, which is actually of the dark amber persuasion. Many barleywines exhibit varying hues of brown as well, and guess what? They don’t suffer from any image problems whatsoever. And then there’s all those lighter-coloured and less intensely-hued porters. Doing just fine too. Brown beer loses out because it’s called Brown Beer. I mean, can you really call a beer “Back in Brown,” or “Fade to Brown,” or “All Cats at Night Are Brown”? WritingDifference (www-press-uchicago-edu)No. “My Brown Cardigan” might be as good as it gets. If that fails, name the beer after your (brown) dog.

But is this a mere hue and cry over colour? It’s more than that, I think. The colour spectrum of brown beer shades over into a hybridity of aroma and flavour as well: not quite pale ale, not quite porter. We’re at a loss when confronted with a brown beer. Are brown beers malty or hoppy? Full-flavoured or a well-choreographed ballet of moderate levels of malt and hops? Sessionable? Dry or slightly sweet? All of the above? Brown beers may well be the quintessential “undecidable” beer style. Which is, perhaps, why we decide against it when the choices at our local bottle shop or taproom are so vast.

* * *

It’s still quite busy here in Tempest Land. While my more involved writing projects sit on the backburner to make room for my brew kettle––I’ve been catching up on homebrewing projects all week––here’s another Saturday Six-Pack for your enjoyment.IMG_1854 If Saturday’s too far off and/or you live in the U.S., drink these eminently autumnal beers with your Thanksgiving dinner.

Last time, I pulled together a selection of beer styles that I drink less often than other styles. This time the rationale’s similar, the only difference being that I actually drink my fair share of brown beer. I’m going to assume, however, that brown beers aren’t what many a beer drinker would bring to a gathering of like-minded beverage enthusiasts. For the purposes of this six-pack, I have bracketed out other styles that are brown in colour and sometimes in name, such as Oud Bruin, Bock and Doppelbock, and Munich Dunkel.

* * *

Since not all of us are brown beer aficionados, what can we expect from these beers?

If you’re a porter fan, you’ll be interested to learn that the contemporary English mild ale (sometimes called “dark mild”) is likely one of the beers that made it into early porter mixes. Indeed, some contemporary versions are reminiscent of lower-gravity brown porter. Today, “mild” refers to a relative lack of hop bitterness; historically, however, the term was reserved for younger beers that had not yet developed the sourness of aged batches.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, breweries began bottling a slightly sweeter rendition of this ale as an answer to the growing reaction against vinous vatted porter and milds that went south all too quickly. English brown ales of this sort are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines. Southern English (or “London-style”) brown ales are darker, sweeter, and lower in alcohol than their northern counterparts. Brown ale originated in London, where the calcium carbonate- and sodium chloride-rich water favoured the production of darker styles such as porter, stout, and dark mild. Perhaps due to the cultural influence of the capital city, this southern type of brown ale came to be brewed throughout England. As is the case with mild ales, London-style browns are beers that you hardly ever see in North America, unless you happen to be judging at a homebrew competition. The style is also becoming increasingly rare even in Olde Albion.

But brown ale lives on as a style associated with the northeast of England, even if what we now call Northern English brown ale or, simply, nut brown ale, debuted on the opposite end of England in Cornwall. This is a nutty and biscuit-like beer ranging in colour from dark amber to reddish-brown, and one that is drier and has less caramel character than its London-style relative to the south. The hop notes are more pronounced than in a Southern English brown, but not so much as to overwhelm the nut-and-biscuit malt profile. Roast notes make an occasional and subtle appearance in these styles as well.

As I’m sure no one will find in the least bit surprising, North American interpretations of the style are, generally, hoppier and maltier. As per the BJCP Style Guidelines, American brown ale “can be considered a bigger, maltier, hoppier interpretation of Northern English Brown Ale or a hoppier, less malty brown porter, often including [a] citrus-accented hop presence.” My favourite American brown ales have a distinctive barley tea-like character––mugi-cha, for anyone who has had the pleasure of drinking this cold barley tea on a sultry summer day in Japan––and a roasted accent that falls between bitter-sweet chocolate and coffee.

*The Newcastle Brown Ale website suggests a serving temperature of 38-40F (3-4C), but in my experience these beers do much better at cellar temperature. If you drink them cool or cold, you won’t get any of the subtle malt characteristics that only come into their own around 50F (10C) or higher. This is particularly the case with English examples you might come across.

Ellie’s Brown Ale (Avery Brewing Company, Colorado). Pleasant roast malts predominate but don’t overpower the dark chocolate in this pecan-brown beer with russet highlights.Avery - Ellies6pk (averybrewing-com) The aromas are earthy, with just the slightest hint of licorice. On the palate, a residual maple sweetness counters a chocolate-accented roast character intertwined with malted milk and toffee. Hops play a supporting role, contributing an almost eucalyptus-like herbal-medicinal touch and a smoothly bitter undertone.

Boffo Brown Ale (Dark Horse Brewing Company, Michigan). Deeply hued dark chestnut brown with mahogany highlights, the aroma of this beer doubles the appearance to suggest that we’re nearing porter territory. The complex malt character shines, with dark chocolate and cocoa-dusted dark cherry mingling with baking spice. Fig jam makes an appearance, with a sprinkle of ground ginger mixed in. All of this quickly crests into a Campari-like bitterness, leading to a lingering finish reminiscent of a high-end cup of cocoa.

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale (Samuel Smith Old Brewery, England). The crystal-clear and beautifully hued dark amber liquid in your glass announces fine things to come. Sam Smith’s tell-tale earthy-licorice-anise aroma pervades a finely-orchestrated combination of toffee and apples with a touch of vanilla that is almost cream soda-like.SamSmith AngelWhiteHorse (samuelsmithbrewery-co-uk) The malt accents fall on biscuit and toasted nuts, with layered dark cherry and hazelnut teaming up with ghee and butterscotch to round out the ensemble. The nutty finish features an appetizing and almost tannic dryness.

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, California). Roast notes of bitter-sweet chocolate intermingle with floral-pine hops to make this beer the most identifiably “American” of the lot. Like the Boffo Brown, its complexion and aromas brush up against the boundaries of porterdom. Tumbler Autumn Brown is a compelling mix of bright levity and earthy seriousness: a smooth and balanced interlacing of toffee and stewed dark fruit, a whiff of autumn smokiness, and bright flavor hops keep things on the graceful side. The long and beguiling finish is reminiscent of the kirsch-soaked cherries in Black Forest cherry cake. N.B.: As of 2014, this beer is no longer available as a stand-alone offering, but you can still get it as part of Sierra Nevada’s Fall Variety Pack.

Old Brown Dog Ale (Smuttynose Brewing Company, New Hampshire). What’s with all the dogs gracing the labels of American brown ales? Cuddly-looking old brown dog or no, this is one flavourful brown ale––the brown ale, in fact, that convinced me some years ago that brown ales were a style worth a second look. If Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog looks almost identical to Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, it is to fruitiness what Sam Smith is to nuttiness. In many ways, this beer reminds me of some Munich Dunkels and Märzens that I’ve had: toasty fresh bread and plum-dark cherry. Layered together with this Munich-like malt character comes a dash of cocoa and bright maple sugar en route to a fruity-bitter off-dry finish.

Upslope Brown Ale (Upslope Brewing Company, Colorado).Upslope Brown (upslopebrewing-com) Upslope’s offering is the most “woodsy” of the beers in this six-pack, and its roasted signature is also one of the most prominent of the beers featured here. Wisps of smoke intertwine with earthy forest floor, cocoa powder, maple sap, and lightly charred coffee before yielding mid-palate to plum-fruit. The dry and moderately astringent bitter finish opens onto an aftertaste of spiced, roasted nuts.

* * *

Even if it’s only Monday, grab a six-pack of these under-rated and inexpensive beers to accompany your Thanksgiving meal, to sip over the coming weekend, or to sample with a group of friends.

What are some of your favourite brown beers? Let us know in the comments.

Related Tempest Articles

Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.1)

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

Further Reading

Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, Brewing Classic Styles (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 2007).

Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988).

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, The World Atlas of Beer (New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012).

BJCP Style Guidelines, 2008 edition.


Newcastle Brown Ale Six-Pack: Lokko Robson (Wiki Commons)

Cover of Derrida’s Writing and Difference: University of Chicago Press

Witbier yeast starter gone wild: F.D. Hofer

Ellie’s Brown Ale: Avery

The Angel & White Horse Pub next to Sam Smith’s Tadcaster brewery: Samuel Smith’s Brewery

Can of Upslope: Upslope Brewing

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.