With the exception of The New York Times, it seems no one is talking about brown ales.
For many early adopters of the independent beer culture, brown ales are the OGs. For me, they began appearing at a friend’s house or at a random party. Someone would bring a six pack of “good beer” and it’d be sweeter and much heavier than what I was used to. In short, it was stronger and would get you drunker faster.
That said, the style is considered a classic and it’s probably a little romanticized. We remember them a little more fondly than we appreciate them. It’s kind of like hearing an old album, thinking you’re really going to enjoy this waltz down memory lane, getting a few songs in before realizing there a reason why you don’t worship the album anymore.
There are excellent versions of brown ales and then there are those that all kind of blend together somewhere amidst the mediocrity. There’s little in-between, and there are no bad browns.
To call a brown ale 'basic' would be to do this beer a disservice.”
Hanging Hills in Hartford, Connecticut makes Chester, Goddamnit as an homage to the Drive-By Truckers and takes the name from a line in the song “18 Wheels of Love.” The folks at Hanging Hills are superfans of the Atlanta-based band. At 5.7%, Chester, Goddamnit is a middle of the road beer. In other words, it’s not so big as to overwhelm, but not light enough to warrant dismissal. Brewed with Georgia ingredients such as pecans, triticale (a hybrid grain of rye and wheat) and sorghum, this beer is more complex than the typical Brown Ale.
The pour is well-carbed, making the beer a bit lighter in body than it’s light-brown hue would suggest. To describe the beer, Brian Cox of Hanging Hills said, “Imagine if you baked some toasted pecans into a caramel cracker.” This is an appropriate description. There’s a great nutty aroma and dry finish. It’s got a bit of caramel sweetness, but the kind of biscuit-y bite that would pair really nicely with a roasted pork and vegetables dish. It’s easy to drink and definitely won’t bore drinkers.
To call a brown ale “basic” would be to do this beer a disservice. Sure, there are mediocre brown ales, with few outstanding characteristics to make the beer really pop in a flight of beers, but there’s something to be said about the nuance of a few great ingredients, which Hanging Hills has done with this beer. The toasted pecans work well and, while this beer is a limited release, it’s worth seeking out whether you’re a Drive-By Truckers fan or just wish to go back in time to a place where brown ales were the only premium option.