I wasn’t expecting to come back to brown ales so soon. When I took over the Beer Barrel, my first review was of Abita Turbodog, my favorite brown ale and one of the few beers in that style that I don’t think are completely boring. I’m sorry! I’m sure there are a lot of brown ale fans out there, because brown ales tend to be highly drinkable, approachable, and sweet. The trouble is that a lot of them tend to be only those things, and the sort of one-note sweetness that many breweries seem content to deliver is… well, I’m generally looking for more.
So why am I reviewing a brown ale today? Because AleSmith is finally in town.
San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Company was, until very recently, one of the most highly-regarded breweries not distributing to Texas. Its best-known beer is probably Speedway Stout, a truly awesome imperial coffee stout that I’m not reviewing today because, let’s face it, I write enough about big, fancy beers here. One thing about Speedway, though: It figures prominently in the story of my infamous Ted Stevens Memorial Road Trip To Nowhere, a very stupid three-day episode in which I sat in my car for hours each day, waiting for a UPS truck, because my apartment management had painted over all the numbers on the doors. Anyway, Alesmith Nut Brown!
Now, the appellation “nut brown” is not a statement about the ingredients of a beer; a proper English nut brown ale does not have nuts in it. It’s not a style of beer either. It’s not, as far as my research tells me, even a prescription as to what the beer should taste like. You’ll see a bunch of people saying “nut” or “nutty” in reviews of nut brown ales, but when a brewer tells you they’ve brewed you a nice nut brown ale, all they’re really telling you is that its color will be some particularly attractive, rich shade of brown. Because of this, I’m going to write the entire review from this point on without referencing nuts at all. Not even once. Not even going to say the word.
AleSmith Nu— shit, that was close. This beer pours a deep brown that may or may not be murky; it’s dark enough that I can’t tell even in the light of the Texas afternoon, but it does have some delightful red highlights. It smells above all like freshly baked brownies, which is never not a good sign of things to come. The beer tastes chocolatey and grainy in roughly equal measure, full-bodied but not exactly heavy. The flavor is a world apart from the generic malt sweetness of your average brown, and it’s not Abita Turbodog’s brown-sugar-and-roast-grain profile either. It’s bold but tasteful; it’s satisfying and comforting. This isn’t a groundbreaking or or mindbending or palate-exploding beer, but it’s nevertheless very much a beer geek’s beer for its complex and surprisingly bold flavor. At the same time, it strikes me as a very strong crowdpleaser. It’s got a similar overall taste to a Shiner Bock or Yuengling, though much amplified. It’ll probably suit your friend who loves the local amber ale but gives no fucks about an IPA. Maybe more than anything else I’ve reviewed, this is a beer for everyone, and if you don’t like it, you’re probably nuts.
lady snow says: I’m napping!
Grade: Honestly one of the best conventional browns you’ll find.
tl;dr: The review’s short enough this time, god dammit.
make it snow is an alot of beer who apologizes for the two-week drought in Beer Barrels, and will be making up for it with another review this Monday. He drank three AleSmith Nut Brown Ales while writing this review. Happy National America Weekend, everyone.