If anyone asks me what my least favorite beer style is, I usually say brown ale. There’s just something so beige about this style, which has neither the hop bite of an IPA or the malty goodness of a porter or stout. The American brown ale occupies some sort of middle ground, like Ohio. And my apologies to the Buckeye State, but it’s tough to get excited about a glass of Ohio. But the other day I was in a bar, and they had a local brown ale on special, so I ordered it because I’m always looking to save a dollar. And you know what? It was delicious. I wouldn’t call it rich, but it had plenty of character with hints of cocoa and bit of roasted coffee. And it went really well with the plate of French fries I was devouring at the time. And that’s the secret power of most browns—they go well with just about anything on the table because they are so understated. There’s nothing in the glass that’s going to overpower the food on your plate, and they seem to be the perfect dancing partner for everything from a bowl of salty French fries to spicy kimchi. Here are eight brown ales you should consider when you’re looking for a six pack to go with dinner. Bonus: most of them are year-round releases, meaning they’re easy to find. Also of note: Ohio’s actually pretty cool, too. So there’s that.
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Catawba Brown Bear
This is the beer that changed my mind about browns recently. It's subtle, with smooth hits of caramel and chocolate, but it gets the job done, and you can find it year round. And right now, they have a new Chesnut Brown Ale on tap that I'm dying to try.
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Avery Ellie's Brown Ale
It's easy drinking and loaded with chocolate malt, which provides all kind of sweet notes, from brown sugar to vanilla. And chocolate, of course. And it's just 5.5%.
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Big Sky Moose Drool Brown
This is Big Sky's flagship, a smooth brown brewed with four different malts (pale, caramel, chocolate and black) and a robust enough hop bill to keep things interesting, if not a little spicy on the end.
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Bell's Best Brown Ale
While most breweries on this list keep their browns in the lineup year round, Bell's only releases Best Brown during the fall, and it has a heftier malt presence to justify the seasonal treatment.
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Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot
Can a brown ale be big? Yeah, if you ask Lagunitas. Actually, this is an imperial brown, loaded with hops and chocolate malts. It's rich, smooth, and available in big 22-ounce bottles. Certainly nothing beige here.
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Burial Bolo Coconut Brown
I'm not typically a fan of coconut, but when it works, it works. And it works in this slightly sweet brown from Burial. Canned releases are occasional, so you have to keep your eyes out.
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Half Acre Shrub Tundra
Much like coconut, coffee works well in a subtle brown ale and Half Acre uses a ton of it in this brown. Make a note, and look for this limited release in spring.
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Sweetwater Hash Brown
Take a healthy malt bill (2-Row, Wheat, Pale Chocolate, Cara-Brown and Midnight Wheat) and add Sweetwater's signature hop hash (along with Mandarina and Bravo hops) and you've got a rich brown with a juicy, dank hop bite. Look for it out now through November. Too much for you? Sweetwater makes a more traditional brown called Georgia Brown.