Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
By Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster, N. Yorks, England)
Often called “mild” if it is on draft, brown ale is a walnut-colored specialty of the North of England. A festive-occasion beer, brown ale is one of the oldest English brewing styles, mentioned in literature in the 16th century. Beers brewed at the old brewery have a round, nutty flavor because of the Yorkshire square system of fermentation.
Walnut-like color and palate of hazelnuts. Wonderful balance of roasted crystal malt and aromatic hops. Long clean finish.
Ah, the delicious Brown Ale. Almost everyone out there who drinks has had this style before. Newcastle is often the brand of choice. Well, the most readily available commercial version out there. So, what’s the most distinguishable characteristic about the Brown Ale? Usually it’s “nuttiness.” The Brown Ale should make you think they had added nuts into the beer to get that flavor. Sometimes toffee, honey, and caramel notes are more apparent (but rarely this is the case). Hence, why most brewery name their Brown Ales by calling it a “Nut Brown.” Colors may range from light brown to black and even the flavors may lean towards a Porter for the darker versions. Technically, there are three types of Brown Ales, all originating from England. If this history stuff bores you, skip to the last paragraph for the review. The three types of English Brown Ale (Category 11) are: (A) Mild (B) Southern English Brown (C) Northern English Brown. The first time I drank a Mild was a homebrew made by one of the brewers at AleSmith. After tasting Matt’s Mild, I researched Milds and even made my own. Milds are probably one of the oldest session beers considering they usually range from 2.8-4.5% ABV. Despite being light flavored, they are quite malt-accented and should lack hop bitterness to emphasize the malt character. Their flavors range from caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, and/or raisin. As you can see, the Mild is a precursor to the Porter and Stout styles but with less roast.
Southern English Brown and Northern English Brown are quite similar yet so different. Obviously, geographical lines separate these styles, yet many other breweries not from England mimic both. To be more concise, Southern English Browns are darker, sweeter, and lower in gravity than the Northern versions. Sometimes considered a mini- Sweet Stout or a sweeter Mild. The Northern English Brown Is generally more drier, hop-oriented, and nuttier in character. Newcastle and Samuel Smith Nut Brown are both categorized as Northern English Brown Ales.
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale pours out brown in color with light brown highlights when held up to the light. This beer is clear but a low level of chill haze exists. The head is tight forming and slightly creamy looking with a low to moderate tan head retention. Its clarity flaws demonstrates its historical authenticity as filtered beer was more common among lagers. Bready, toffee, and honey-like flavors are exhibited through the malt and fruity ester aromas. You’ll notice as you drink more English beers that their fruity esters are quite distinguishable and to me are usually reminiscent of honey, sweet apples, and slight butter. As this beer warms, a subdued light nutty walnut and toasty malt aroma slowly arises finishing with a low level of diacetyl. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and seems to attack the tongue with a moderately high level of carbonation. Sweet maple, caramel, and toffee malt characters initially stand out but it finishes moderately dry with a low nutty finish. There is a low earthy hop flavor that is quite subtle, but the hop bitterness stands out enough to balance out the malt so that its not overly sweet. Aftertaste is slightly buttery. A very drinkable and enjoyable beer that well exemplifies its style. I feel its caramel flavors are a little strong for a Northern English Brown Ale and its “nut brown” flavors are too subtle. I can see this beer pairing really well with some barbeque especially now that its almost the season for it.
Category 11C: Northern English Brown Ale