Monday, 20 July 2009

Stockholm (part five)

Thursday evening I had a chance to return to Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68. Yippee! A proper beer pub at last. A proper beer pub that was open.

Three evenings out with Dolores. That's more than I usually get in five years. I'm not joking. I blame the children

Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68 (is it me, or is that a slightly unwieldy name?) is much more modern inside than out. Quite trendy, in fact. Dolores liked it.

Like everywhere else, it was suffering from the sunny weather. That's why we sat close to the entrance, to get a little breeze.

This was exciting. A real choice of beer. What should I have?

Sometimes, I just don't learn from past mistakes. Now don't take this the wrong way. Please don't. But I blame the Americans. For buggering up Brown Ale. I quite like Brown Ale. The sweet, malty stuff called Brown Ale in Britain. But there's another type of Brown Ale. The hoppy type, with bugger all malt and not a trace of sweetness. It's like a darker version of Pale Ale. A bit of a waste of time as a beer style, to be honest.

The BJCP has to take some of the blame. They obviously just guessed how British brewers made Brown Ale and assumed that the colour came from dark malt. Even worse, from brown malt. that adds an inappropriate roastiness that has no place in a proper* Brown Ale. Not my sort of Brown Ale. Caramel, brewing sugars and crystal malt. They should be the source of the colour.

And the poor bastards in Scandinavia have just followed the American lead. Producing Brown Ales that have almost no similarity to a proper* Brown Ale.

I rashly ordered a Dugges Fuggedaboudit. Even though I couldn't pronounce the name. I'll be honest, it was the ABV that swung it for me. I should have paid more attention to the ABA after the name. I realised what it meant between ordering and receiving. "Bugger. I bet ABA stands for American Brown Ale" What's wrong with that?" "It'll be like that beer the first night. The horrible one"

It wasn't quite as bad as that. Just not at all like a Brown Ale. I envied Dolores. She got herself a rather nice wheat beer (Helsinge Veteöl). "Do you want to swap?" I asked and let her try my "Brown Ale". She didn't have to say anything. The sucking lemons expression was enough.

We only stayed for the one. Nothing to do with the beer. It was purely a technical public transport thing. We had exactly enough strips on our ticket to complete all our intended journeys. As long as we moved on to the next pub within an hour. The system is very like in Holland. You can travel for an hour after the time stamped on your ticket.

God, that was a dull explanation. I shouldn't have bothered, should I? Just as well I put in the provocative stuff about Brown Ale.

You'll have to wait until tomorrow to read about the remainder of the evening. And I'll be throwing in some more dodgy theorising about beer types. Don't miss it. Could change your life.**

Glenfiddich Warehouse No. 68
Västerlånggatan 68,
111 29 Stockholm.
Tel: 08 - 791 90 90
Fax: 08 - 791 70 70

* the type of Brown Ale actually brewed in the UK, something like this.
** slight exaggeration.


Jeff Renner said...

I think that the BJCP recognized an existing style of beer made first by American homebrewers and then commercially, first by Pete Slosberg in 1986 with Pete's Wicked Ale. (This is now a far different brew, and a lager at that.)

We early-modern American homebrewers (I started in 1973 or so) wanted to brew something that was as unlike commercial yellow beer (about all we could get) as was possible. That meant dark and bitter.

Porter was one choice, or porter as we understood it. Brown ale, again as we understood or interpreted it, was another.

We loved using specialty grains, crystal, chocolate, and roast/black, and lots of hops. Sometimes not entirely judiciously. But I, at least, made some pretty well balanced brown ales, although nothing whatsoever like British browns. But I've had some brownish bitters in UK that weren't so different from what I brewed.

Tim said...

Fuggedaboudit. That would be "Forget about it" pronounced as if you are a guy named Vinnie from New Jersey.

Gary Gillman said...

Jeff, I remember that Pete Slosberg Wicked Brown Ale very well. I don't think Ron would have been a fan because it had a marked minty Cascades or other C-hop character. The malt flavor was mildly sweet (in the English brown ale way) but instead of a restrained, non-aromatic hop such as England would have used, this big leafy character came in. I like it a lot, it was good ice cold as many C-hop beers are.

If you encountered that taste in England, I wonder if it wasn't somehow influenced by this American micro taste derived as you said from home-brewers' practices.

What Ron is describing sounds more like a 1700's entire butt porter: dryish, brown malt influence, very hoppy. A lot of this kind of brown ale is really a historical porter if the hops are not aromatic. If they are, though, then it is a kind of hybrid perhaps influenced by the kind of New World brown ale you are referring to.


Mike said...

I have to agree with Ron, "I quite like Brown Ale. The sweet, malty
stuff called Brown Ale in Britain. But there's another type of Brown
Ale. The hoppy type, with bugger all malt and not a trace of
sweetness. It's like a darker version of Pale Ale. A bit of a waste of
time as a beer style, to be honest."
I remember Brown Ale being malty and sweet with hops being somewhere
in there but not in your face, subtle and complimentary not
overpowering. Brown Ale was offered by most breweries in Britain. The
distinction Northern or Southern is a mystery to me, we didn't have
northern bitter and southern bitter, there were different ways of
serving it in a pint glass but not stylistically different. Cask beers
did not travel well but bottles did better so up North where I am from
we had some southern jessy sweet brown ales and light ales. We also
had, always in bottles, Guiness Stout and Mackeson's Milk Stout, a
sweeter maltier drink favoured by old ladies sitting in the snug
warming by the fire while the men played cribbage, dominos or darts
and supped pints.
There was always Sam Smith's nut brown ale, Manns Brown Ale, Newcastle
Brown and lots of others. The thing is they were Brown Ales, not
northern or southern or Lancashire or Yorkshire or Scottish, just
bloody brown ales and NOT hop hammers.
I am not saying I don't like hoppy brown ale but as Ron says it's
brown Pale Ale, or in some cases even a brown IPA.
Tastes change and beer will be made to suit the taste of those
drinking. But brewers I beg you not to put 2 ounces of hops in a
recipe that calls for one, twice is not always better. Change is good,
but so is brown ale without a fistful of hops.

Jeff Renner said...

Gary - I don't think I ever tasted a UK brown bitter with American hops, but I have had them with a fair amount of aromatic English hop character.

However, the British brewers do seem to be using American hops with their citrus and piney character in the newer summer bitters. These are nearly as pale as lagers and often quite aromatic.

While I think that many of these are brewed by newer, smaller breweries, not all are. We stayed in Cornwall three years ago for a week, about five miles from St. Austell, and I was surprised to taste full American hop character in St. Austell Brewery's (founded 1851) "Proper Job" ale. According to their web site, they use Willamette (a derivative of Fuggles, and one of my favorite English-style hops), and the aggressive American hop Chinook, as well as the iconic American hop Cascade.

It really wasn't a favorite of mine. When I am in the UK, I like traditional UK ales.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, OK, I'll blame American homebrewers then. The bastards.

I have this fear that, in a few years time, every beer will have effing C-hops in it. What a nightmare.

MentalDental said...

"I have this fear that, in a few years time, every beer will have effing C-hops in it. What a nightmare."

Let's hope the bines get struck down by some C-hop specific downy mildew/verticillium wilt thing. :-)

Still they are OK in their place although I have to say that my packet of Cascades have been in the freezer for a long time. I keep getting them out to use then spot the Fuggles/|Goldings/First Gold/Challenger, even Willamette, and think better of it!

But I have to agree that a well chilled C-hop ale is excellent on a hot summers day. And I do realise the irony of saying this as the floods sweep England!

Gary Gillman said...

Jeff, a well-hopped brown ale must be, where English hops are being used,either a spin-off of American Brown Ale or the result of home grown experimentation. Before the 1980's though, as far as I know in the U.K., there was no strongly hopped brown ale.

There was southern English brown, of which Mann's was a classic instance, and northern beers that were somewhat stronger and more hopped but not heavily hopped. Double Maxim and Newkie Brown were examples, Federated had one too as I recall. (Also Sam Smith).

I speak of the 1970's as I recall the era from personal visits and Michael Jackson's books which were a reliable guide to contemporary practice. I stress contemporary. (And by the way Michael never claimed to be a historian. Considering the time he wrote in and the resources he had, he did a superb job to record the history when he needed to but his books were not primarily historical in nature).

There were of course various old ales, some reasonably hopped, but most as I recall them were not really brown beers. Old Peculier was not and is not, for example.

With the onset of craft breweries post-CAMRA in England, the modern categories started to break down. As I say, I believe the well-hopped brown beers were probably inspired by American browns but some no doubt came from local experimentation.

Some of those hopped browns may have resembled early 1900's mild ales after they turned dark brown. Some probably were closer to the original porters.

What's old is new again, in other words (generally anyway).

The combination of a luscious brown malt flavour with a bright C-hop taste did seem unusual to me when I first encountered it, but like you, I miss the original Pete's Wicked Brown Ale. It went well with chili!


Jeff Renner said...

Gary - I don't think any of the handful of UK beers I was comparing to American brown ales were called brown ales.

Rather, they were either called bitter of some sort, or just by some name that was not descriptive. But they were darker than the typical bitter - full brown, and had hop aroma typical of many bitters.

The first I can remember having of this type was Goacher's Best Dark Ale maybe ten years ago. It's only 2/3 the gravity of a typical American brown ale, but it shares the malt and hops balance, I think.

The description is at ;

I know that there are others as well, many called dark this or that.

Gary Gillman said...

I think some of those may have reached back to an earlier time (1960's and earlier), when indeed strong brown beers - relatively strong and some decently hopped - were in the market as Ron has shown i.e., throughout England.

Indeed the Federation's brown ale, Newcastle's, Vaux', may have been survivals (toned-down in some cases) of this tradition. But even in such form they seem mostly or entirely to have been a northern phenomenon by around 1980.

I do think some of those beers Jeff you mentioned were inspired one way or another by modern North American brown ales, not all of which used C hops. For example, one of Toronto's early craft beers was Upper Canada Dark Ale, still made, had an English taste with a Belgian twist (banana-estery). There were many U.S. efforts in this era too, Brooklyn Brewing's brown ale of today is an excellent, modern survival.

Maybe the English brewers you were referring to eschewed the term brown ale, which had downscale associations by the 1970's according to Jackson (who typed it, wrongly it appears at least in part, as a bottled mild).

Another way to look at those beers is that are revivals of early 1900's strong milds after the switch in colour, prompted in my view by increasing use of brewing sugars.

As usually is the case when trying to make inferences in such areas, I think it is a case of all the above (including the element of local invention, creativity, similar indeed to what you described when the early U.S. home-brewers started to get down).


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I'll be posting more about Brown Ale later this week. I think I've spotted a new variant . . . .