I think that brown ales are getting squeezed out lately. Once the out-there beer that demarcated the (then) new breed of craft brewers from the corporate lagers, today in the wave of Imperial IPAs, oak-aged beer and Trappist Quadrupels, brown ales seem, well, rather boring and timid.
Which is a shame, because they aren’t. Sure, they don’t wallop your tonsils like some of the bigger beer we have been seeing lately, but a well-made brown ale offers a gentle complexity that is quite enjoyable.
Which brings me to the reason I come to the defence of brown ale. I had a chance a few days ago to sample Yukon Brewing’s Bonanza Brown Ale, available only in their Dark Side mixed packs. It took me back to those earlier days when brown ales were the rage.
It is, I believe, an English-style brown ale. It pours light tawny brown with reddish hue. Not much head builds, just a thin ring around the glass. The aroma is quite appealing – sweet toffee, some caramel, milk chocolate, hints of nut in the background, and a generic fruitiness, but not too much. Toffee and light chocolate the the dominant aromas.
In the sip, that light toffee confirms initial expectations, but is accompanied by some honey upfront. I also get touches of grainy malt and a smooth velvet chocolate character. The middle becomes a bit nutty and brings in a hint of earthiness. Finish is moderately sweet with a nutty profile. Smooth, clean body and mouthfeel. Very little hops to speak of.
I really enjoy the the mix of flavours in this beer. For me it comes across as something of a hybrid of the two English styles (Northern, which is drier and nuttier, and Southern which is darker and sweeter). A bit more body would hold the flavours better, and give it a bigger overall effect, but I wouldn’t mess with the flavour mix. It goes back very easily.