IPAs are delicious. Double IPAs are often even more delicious. Barrel-aged stouts are delicious, too, and then so are sours. If you dive deep into the world of craft beer obsessives, you might begin to think these are the only beer styles worth drinking. But this isn't the case. Not by a long shot.
There was a significant push this past summer to embrace the pilsner — a traditional style that’s crisp, surprisingly complex, great with food, and perfect for warm weather. That was a step in the right direction, and it follows a line of thinking we should continue as we settle into fall: It’s high time we welcome back the humble brown ale.
Malty and slightly sweet with a medium body, the brown ale is as comforting as the pilsner is thirst-quenching, which is to say, it serves its seasonal purpose perfectly. They’re generally drinkable enough — there are bigger versions, but most hover around 5.5% ABV — that you could easily kill the better part of a six-pack while watching a football game, but the better ones are also flavorful enough that they can make for a fine one-and-done. You'll get hints of chocolate and coffee, some nuttiness, and a little bit of fruit — the best ones blend all of these together nicely, but it's also fun to try a bunch and pinpoint which flavor element jumps out more in each.
Brown ales also work great with most foods. The roasted character and substantial mouth-feel make it a perfect match for grilled steak, while the caramel notes go brilliantly with standard autumnal sides like sweet potatoes and squash. My favorite pairing for any brown ale, though, is a 5-year-aged Gouda, which gives off hints of toffee and butterscotch that play nicely with the brown ale's subtle sweetness — which is to say nothing of the crunchy calcium lactate crystals that form in the cheese and somehow seem to bring the beer to life even more.
The brown ale isn't likely to change your life in any profound way (although neither is a stupid-hoppy IPA, despite what the internet says), and it certainly won't make you the envy of your friends when you score a six-pack from your local bottle shop. But man, they sure are delicious. —Mike Conklin
Below, find 12 examples of the style that are more than worthy of your beer money.