13 August 2007

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (NH)

This is considered one of the archetypes of the American-style brown ale. Poured from a 12-ounce bottle (drink by October 2007), Old Brown Dog looks like tea or instant coffee. I didn't get much of a head, but may have been my fault (soap residue on the glass, perhaps). I detected a definite malty aroma (of course) and some brown sugar and spice. My first reaction was that this is over-carbonated a bit. The body itself is on the light side of medium, not "fuller-bodied" as claimed by the brewer. On the positive side, the taste is very nice. Malty, roasted and somewhat sweet, but also slightly hoppy with a dry finish.

Allaboutbeer identifies the pros and cons of the American take on brown ale:

An initial whiff [of the American style] reveals that something is absent, but something else is aggressively present. Missing are the subtle contributions of the yeast, as American browns are often made with a neutral yeast with little or no character of its own. Present, however, is a forceful dose of aroma hops with the very familiar Cascade variety the most common. A taste will reveal yet another divergence from the English browns. American browns are bigger in all ways-higher in gravity, bitterness, and alcohol.

So do the extra hops justify the loss of subtlety? I dunno. I prefer Old Brown Dog to the Brown Bear Brown Ale -- which is in the British tradition -- but I'm not sure if my preference is a question of style or of the quality of the brew.

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