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Paint the Town Brown

It began as a striking reaction to industrial beer before fading into near-obscurity. Drew Beechum tells the tale of brown ale and makes the case for brewing up a big, malty hug.

Drew Beechum Jun 26, 2021 - 11 min read

Paint the Town Brown Primary Image

Photos: Matt Graves/

The American craft-beer movement started as an allergic reaction to the bland uniformity of mass-market pale lager. From that yellow sameness came a riot of flavors, aromas, and colors. But times and tastes have moved on, leaving some of our pioneer beers up in the attic, next to our dusty high-school trophies.

I can think of no style less deserving of the “chuck it in the bin with the eight-tracks” treatment than the classic brown ale.

With brown ale, there are a number of clarifications that need to be made because historically there have been countless variations. Before folks became obsessed with measuring, calculating, delineating, and marketing beer, brewers mostly talked about beer as a city/region, strength, and color. Brown is arguably the easiest beer color to make, so its manifestations have been many. Even inside the same brewing traditions, brewers have applied and reapplied the term “brown” to vast ranges of beer (the many styles of tiny Belgium’s brune or bruin being a case in point).

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