If you’re the type of person who constantly stalks the aisles of your local bottle shop to make note of every new beer that pops up on the shelves, you’ve probably noticed that the past two weeks have brought with them an abundance of fall themed beers. Most of them, of course, are of the pumpkin variety, and to go back to the whole seasonality thing we keep talking about, it’s just too soon for that shit. If I’m gonna drink beer that tastes like pie, I better damn well be wearing a fucking sweater.
But there’s another, less obviously season specific style starting to show up as well: the brown ale. Known for their dark color, low bitterness and their chocolatey, nutty and/or coffee characteristics, brown ales serve as a fine transitional option as fall approaches. Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler is a prime example of the style, and Brooklyn Brown Ale is a local staple, of course. Now, Sixpoint is throwing their hat in the ring with their newest canned offering, Brownstone, a beer that’s been in their stable for years, but only on draft only.
It pours a beautiful dark brown with hints of deep red and and a thick, rocky white head—pretty much standard for the style, if perhaps slightly more vibrant than usual. The aroma is fantastic: coffee and something like brown sugar or caramel stand out, but there’s also an unexpected wave of earthy, floral hops. Those same characteristics follow through in the taste, with the hops taking center stage at first, followed by mild sweetness and then tons of big coffee notes in the mostly dry finish.
Purists may be dismayed by Brownstone’s amped-up hop presence, which I suppose is understandable. But for me, the hops help to brighten it, making it a bit more lively on the palate and thus far more drinkable. Because of their high concentration of similar flavor notes, brown ales can seem heavier than they really are, more to the point of mere tediousness than actual fullness. Sixpoint displays great respect for the style here, without being slaves to it, which is sort of the point—of craft beer, of art, of style itself. Of everything important, really.
Brownstone is available in 4-packs of 16oz cans at pretty much every beer distributor and halfway decent bodega in Brooklyn.