Our new journey of discovery begins with a tale of 2 countries, from the north east of England to the north west of America, this is the story of traditions lost and renewed, words translated and rewritten, of two countries divided by a common language, drawn together over glasses of great beer.
We’ve drunk Brown Ales in Britain for centuries. For most of that time, all beer was ale and all of it was brown; it was our standard beer before beer developed as distinct styles, by which time the Brown Ale was replaced by Porters and Pale Ales. We’ve always been fickle with what we drink, happily jumping to the next great pint.
As pioneering craft breweries opened in North America in the 1980s, and without their own deep beer culture to learn from, they took traditional styles from Europe’s great brewing nations and reinvented them. From Britain they took those Pale Ales and the IPAs, the Porters and the Stouts, and by the 1990s, when even more craft breweries were opening, Brown Ale was enjoying a golden comeback (remember when every pub and bar fridge had bottles of it?), a revival of that great old beer, and it inspired countless new brews.
Those American brewers didn’t just read the British Brown Ale recipes and copy them. There was a Brown Ale from London with sweet chocolate and caramel flavours, and a ubiquitous one from the north east with its tea, biscuit and tobacco flavours, and the craft brewers combined them, then supersized them, then added loads of hops to them. The British Brown Ale became the American Brown Ale.
They beers had more malt, giving richer flavours of biscuit, chocolate, toast and toffee. That extra malt wanted more hops, and brewers chose local varieties with jingoistic star-spangled names like Columbus, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial, with their grapefruit, orange and pine aromas. It became one of America’s first true craft beer styles.
Back in Britain and by the late 2010s Brown Ale had been lost again, forgotten like track suits, baggy jeans and Kickers shoes. In the pub there were still Best Bitters, Amber Ales and Porters, but boring Brown didn’t fit in anymore, especially as our thirst grew for Pale Ales and IPA, increasingly now brewed with exciting American hops.
But what goes around comes around. British brewing created the foundation for American craft beer, now the American influence came back to us. The lost Brown Ale returned, revived and renewed, in a comeback to rival Reebok Classics, keeping its British soul and now showing off an American accent.
The grain we use in this recipe includes lots of classic Brown Malt, which tastes like biscuits, chocolate, toast and caramel. Alongside that we use creamy oats and bready pale malt to give a really smooth-bodied beer that’s designed to be slightly sweet and easy-drinking, with a typically British 5% ABV. In a Pale Ale, Centennial hops might bring orange and lemon, but with that base of Brown Malt, the citrus shows more like marmalade, though it’s a piney, woody and lightly herbal background flavour that comes through most in this beer, keeping a gentle bitterness like those old British Browns, and placing it in a new territory on our flavour axis, sitting right between hoppy and malty.
It’s a true transatlantic reinvention of the classic Brown Ale and a tale of two countries divided by a common language, united by the craft of great beer.
Our journey to discover a new world of fresh beer has only just begun.