9. Brown Ale Guidelines

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Ringwood, Melbourne
9.1 Northern English Brown Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Light, sweet malt aroma with toffee, nutty and/or caramel notes. A light but appealing fresh hop aroma (UK varieties) may also be noticed. A light fruity ester aroma may be evident in these beers, but should not dominate. Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Dark amber to reddish-brown colour. Clear. Low to moderate off-white to light tan head.

Flavour: Gentle to moderate malt sweetness, with a nutty, lightly caramelly character and a medium-dry to dry finish. Malt may also have a toasted, biscuity, or toffee-like character. Medium to medium-low bitterness. Malt-hop balance is nearly even, with hop flavour low to none (UK varieties). Some fruity esters can be present; low diacetyl (especially butterscotch) is optional but acceptable.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Medium to medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: Drier and more hop-oriented that southern English brown ale, with a nutty character rather than caramel.

History/Comments: English brown ales are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines.

Ingredients: English mild ale or pale ale malt base with caramel malts. May also have small amounts darker malts (e.g., chocolate) to provide colour and the nutty character. English hop varieties are most authentic. Moderate carbonate water.

Vital Statistics:
1040-1052 1008-1013 20-30 12-22 4.2-5.4%

Commercial Examples: Newcastle Brown Ale, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Tolly Cobbold Cobnut Special Nut Brown Ale, Goose Island Hex Nut Brown Ale, Samuel Adams Brown Ale

9.2 Irish Red Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, generally caramel-like but occasionally toasty or toffee-like in nature. May have a light buttery character (although this is not required). Hop aroma is low to none (usually not present). Quite clean.

Appearance: Amber to deep reddish copper colour (most examples have a deep reddish hue). Clear. Low off-white to tan coloured head.

Flavour: Moderate caramel malt flavour and sweetness, occasionally with a buttered toast or toffee-like quality. Finishes with a light taste of roasted grain, which lends a characteristic dryness to the finish. Generally no flavour hops, although some examples may have a light English hop flavour. Medium-low hop bitterness, although light use of roasted grains may increase the perception of bitterness to the medium range. Medium-dry to dry finish. Clean and smooth (lager versions can be very smooth). No esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, although examples containing low levels of diacetyl may have a slightly slick mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation. Smooth. Moderately attenuated (more so than Scottish ales). May have a slight alcohol warmth in stronger versions.

Overall Impression: An easy-drinking pint. Malt-focused with an initial sweetness and a roasted dryness in the finish.

Comments: Sometimes brewed as a lager (if so, generally will not exhibit a diacetyl character). When served too cold, the roasted character and bitterness may seem more elevated.

Ingredients: May contain some adjuncts (corn, rice, or sugar), although excessive adjunct use will harm the character of the beer. Generally has a bit of roasted barley to provide reddish colour and dry roasted finish. UK/Irish malts, hops, yeast.

Vital Statistics:
1044-1060 1010-1014 17-28 9-18 4.0-6.0%

Commercial Examples: Moling’s Irish Red Ale, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, Kilkenny Irish Beer, Beamish Red Ale, Caffrey’s Irish Ale, Goose Island Kilgubbin Red Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red (lager), Boulevard Irish Ale, Harpoon Hibernian Ale

9.3 Scottish Ale

Aroma: Low to medium malty sweetness, sometimes accentuated by low to moderate kettle caramelization. Some examples have a low hop aroma, low diacetyl, and/or a low to moderate peaty aroma (all are optional). The peaty aroma is sometimes perceived as earthy, smoky or very lightly roasted.

Appearance: Deep amber to dark copper. Usually very clear due to long, cool fermentations. Low to moderate, creamy off-white to light tan-coloured head.

Flavour: Malt is the primary flavour, but isn’t overly strong. The initial malty sweetness is usually accentuated by a low to moderate kettle caramelization, and is sometimes accompanied by a low diacetyl component. No fruity esters. Hop bitterness is low to moderate, but the balance will always be towards the malt (although not always by much). Hop flavour is low to none. A low to moderate peaty character is optional, and may be perceived as earthy or smoky. Generally has a grainy, dry finish due to small amounts of unmalted roasted barley.

Mouthfeel: Medium-low to medium body. Low to moderate carbonation. Sometimes a bit creamy, but often quite dry due to use of roasted barley.

Overall Impression: Cleanly malty with a drying finish, and on occasion a faint bit of peaty earthiness (smoke). Most beers finish fairly dry considering their relatively sweet palate, and as such have a different balance than strong Scotch ales.

History: Traditional Scottish session beers reflecting the indigenous ingredients (water, malt), with less hops than their English counterparts (due to the need to import them). Long, cool fermentations are traditionally used in Scottish brewing. Occasionally branded 80/- and 90/- reflecting the traditional shilling scale (barrel price) used throughout the UK, although at substantially lower than 19th century gravities. 80/- and 90/- strength ales were commonly bottled as "Export" products.

Comments: The malt-hop balance is slightly to moderately tilted towards the malt side. Any caramelization comes from kettle caramelization and not caramel malt (and is sometimes confused with diacetyl). Although unusual, any smoked character is yeast- or water-derived and not from the use of peat-smoked malts. Use of peat-smoked malt to replicate the peaty character should be restrained; overly smoky beers should be entered in the Specialty Beer category rather than here.

Ingredients: Scottish or English pale base malt. Small amounts of roasted barley add colour and flavour, and lend a dry, slightly roasty finish. English hops. Clean, relatively un-attenuative ale yeast. Some commercial brewers add small amounts of crystal, amber, or wheat malts, and adjuncts such as sugar. The optional peaty, earthy and/or smoky character comes from the traditional yeast and from the local malt and water rather than using smoked malts.

Vital Statistics:
1040-1055 1010-1016 15-30 9-17 4.0-5.5%

Commercial Examples: McEwan’s 80/- (4.5% ABV), McEwan’s 90/- (5.5% ABV), Orkney Dark Island (4.6% ABV), Caledonian 80/- (4.1% ABV), Broughton Exciseman’s 80/- (4.6% ABV), Broughton Black Douglas Ale (5.2% ABV), Belhaven St. Andrews Ale (4.6% ABV), Inveralmond Lia Fail (4.7% ABV), Arran Dark (4.3% ABV)

9.4 Australian Dark/Old Ale

Aroma: Mild malt aroma, with low to moderate fruitiness and toasty or light roasty notes. No to low hop aroma, caramel or diacetyl. Any yeasty notes or phenolics should be penalized, as should any excessive fruitiness or sweet caramel characters. Slight chocolate is acceptable. Clean aroma is essential.

Appearance: Mid-brown to dark brown, sometimes almost black and opaque. Low to medium carbonation. Excessive carbonation or flatness should be penalized.

Flavour: Mild maltiness with no hop flavour or diacety. Low to moderate fruitiness, light roastiness can be evident. Dry maltiness on the finish. Clean and quaffable. Low to medium carbonation. Any phenolics, diacetyl, yeasty flavours, astringency, harshness, or noticeable sweetness or alcohol, should be penalized.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Low to medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: A dry, mildly flavoured session beer. Malt evident but evenly balanced by hop bitterness.

Ingredients: Pale and chocolate malt, clean bittering hop such as Pride of Ringwood.

Vital Statistics:
1040-1050 1010-1016 15-25 15-25 4.5-5.3%

Commercial Examples: Toohey’s Old Ale

9.5 American Brown Ale [BJCP]

Aroma: Malty, sweet and rich, which often has a chocolate, caramel, nutty and/or toasty quality. Hop aroma is typically low to moderate. Some interpretations of the style may feature a stronger hop aroma, a citrusy American hop character, and/or a fresh dry-hopped aroma (all are optional). Fruity esters are moderate to very low. The dark malt character is more robust than other brown ales, yet stops short of being overly porter-like. The malt and hops are generally balanced. Moderately low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Light to very dark brown colour. Clear. Low to moderate off-white to light tan head.

Flavour: Medium to high malty flavour (often with caramel, toasty and/or chocolate flavours), with medium to medium-high bitterness. The medium to medium-dry finish provides an aftertaste having both malt and hops. Hop flavour can be light to moderate, and may optionally have a citrusy character. Very low to moderate fruity esters. Moderately low to no diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. More bitter versions may have a dry, resiny impression. Moderate to moderately high carbonation. Stronger versions may have some alcohol warmth in the finish.

Overall Impression: Can be considered a bigger, maltier, hoppier interpretation of Northern English brown ale or a hoppier, less malty Brown Porter, often including the citrus-accented hop presence that is characteristic of American hop varieties.

History/Comments: A strongly flavoured, hoppy brown beer, originated by American home brewers. Related to American Pale and American Amber Ales, although with more of a caramel and chocolate character, which tends to balance the hop bitterness and finish. Most commercial American Browns are not as aggressive as the original homebrewed versions, and some modern craft brewed examples. IPA-strength brown ales should be entered in the Specialty Beer category.

Ingredients: Well-modified pale malt, either American or Continental, plus crystal and darker malts should complete the malt bill. American hops are typical, but UK or noble hops can also be used. Moderate carbonate water would appropriately balance the dark malt acidity.

Vital Statistics:
1045-1060 1010-1016 20-40+ 18-35 4.3-6.2%

Commercial Examples: Brooklyn Brown Ale, Great Lakes Cleveland Brown Ale, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale, Left Hand Deep Cover Brown Ale, Bell’s Best Brown, North Coast Acme Brown, Lost Coast Downtown Brown, Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale
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