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Bartenders Rave About Their Favorite Brown Ales

If you follow the beer world, you’re likely aware that IPAs get the lion’s share of the hype (regardless of the time of year). In second place come stouts, especially barrel-aged stouts in recent years. Of course, there are a ton of other beer styles in the mix, too. And way down the “mainstream American popularity” list is the always-warming-but-often-overlooked brown ale.

Around these parts, we believe that brown ale might be the most underrated winter beer of all time. And it’s time to change that.

This style, well-known for its dark brown color, has been brewed continuously since the 1600s (so somebody is obviously drinking it). Originally, it was much lighter in color (as were many beers). It wasn’t until the 1800s that brown ales became the dark amber, sweet, malt-bombs we know today.

To celebrate these lesser-known winter warmers, we asked a handful of bartenders to tell us their favorite brown ales to drink from now until spring. Check their answers below.

Alesmith Nut Brown

Alesmith

Jerry Skakun, bartender at Cucina Enoteca in Newport Beach, California

I would say Alesmith Nut Brown.

For one, I am a hobby home brewer and very passionate about this sort of thing. For two, it is derived and crafted in San Diego which speaks volumes on its producers — being as SD is such beer capitol. I personally feel it is easy drinking, covers some nice baking spice notes, features a nutty aroma, and boasts a slight flavor profile — probably around 18-25 SRM [beer color index] or maybe a bit higher.

One might also find, toffee and caramel notes with a hint of vanilla, creamy lingering mouthfeel, and smooth head.

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Pfriem Scotch Barrel Aged Imperial Brown

pFriem

Joan Percival, bartender at Proof Whiskey and Craft Cocktails in Omaha, Nebraska

If you’re lucky enough to find a PFriem imperial barrel-aged, don’t pass it up. It’s well rounded, smoky, and fruity at the same time. It’s a great wintery brown ale.

Average Price: $8.99 for a 375ml bottle

Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Newcastle Brown is a solid slammer. It’s always hard to only put back a couple. It’s rich, malty, and sweet. A perfect after work sipper, especially during the winter months.

Average Price: $13.99 for a 12-pack

Avery Ellie’s Brown

Avery

Brandon “Habi” Habenstein from The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Bardstown, Kentucky

Avery Ellie’s Brown is the best. Some browns go a little too far down caramel lane but this one keeps it malty and toasty, pairing with pretty much any food you can find.

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Civil Life American Brown

Civil Life

Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

My favorite has to be the American Brown Ale from Civil Life brewery in St. Louis. It’s rich, roasty, malty, and dark. It finishes light and balanced; so easy to enjoy more than one… maybe too easy.

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Tank Freedom Tower

Tank

Cristina Suarez, beverage manager at KUSH Hospitality Group in Miami

There is no question about it. Freedom Tower by Tank Brewing is the best brown ale for every winter. I enjoy the crispy caramel and toffee flavors, which are perfect for a cold night by the fire.

Average Price: $11.49 for a six-pack

Florida Avenue Brown Ale

Florida Avenue

Kirstin Sabik, mixologist at Sneaky Tiki in Pensacola, Florida

Florida Avenue Brown Ale has been winning awards since its launch in 2012. It’s a class English- Style brown ale with notes of caramel, toffee, and chocolate which finishes with dry earthy characteristics.

Cheerio!

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Blackstone Nut Brown

Blackstone

Kimberly Basnight, lead Bartender at Fins Bar in Nashville

My favorite brown ale this winter season is a local from Blackstone Brewing Co in Nashville, Tennessee. It has hints of toasted malts and chocolate and is perfect for sitting by the fire or cozied up with loved ones.

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Cigar City Maduro

Cigar City

Sire Negri, lead mixologist at Havana Beach Bar & Grill in Rosemary Beach, Florida

One of our favorite brown ales is from Cigar City in Tampa Fla., Cigar City Maduro. This year-round release from Cigar City embodies the quintessential qualities of an English-style brown ale. Its light brown color and tastes of toasty malts, cocoa, and nuttiness continue to make this one of the best Brown Ales.

Average Price: $8.99 for a six-pack

Brooklyn Brown Ale

Brooklyn

Stephen Lasaten, food and beverage manager at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

Brooklyn Brown Ale is my go-to. It’s not too heavy with the caramel and chocolate, and the coffee in the background gives it the depth of warmness that’s often lacking on a cold night.

Average Price: $10.49 for a six-pack

Funky Buddha French Toast

Funky Buddha

Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami

French Toast Double Brown Ale from Funky Buddha is a must this winter. This beer can be enjoyed any time of the year but makes it special during the winter because of its sweet and cinnamon notes. It goes down way too smooth and feels like you’re having breakfast during the winter with every sip.

Average Price: $11.99 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans

Rogue Hazelnut Nectar

Rogue

Jane Danger, national mixologist for Pernod-Ricard USA

Rogue Hazelnut Nectar is a great twist on the classic brown ale without straying too far from the original. Nutty, toffee, bitter, roasty, and malt all play their parts in perfect balance. Full-flavored in the middle with a clean finish means you can have more than one and even pair with a spirit, like Martell Cognac, for a great match.

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Freehouse Battery Brown

Freehouse

Allen Lancaster, master cocktail craftsman at The Bar at The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina

Freehouse Battery Brown here in Charleston has been my favorite brown ale since I moved here. Solid nutty flavors, like walnut and hazelnut, with a medium body, make this enjoyable any time of year.

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Writer’s Picks:

Bell’s Best Brown

Bell

This 5.8% is a winter go-to for a variety of reasons. It’s bold, robust, sweet, and filled with notes of sweet caramel, milk chocolate, and toasted malts.

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Surly Bender

Surly

This oatmeal brown ale is surprisingly complex and well-balanced. It has a great combination of crisp hops that pair well with hints of vanilla, caramel, and rich coffee.

Average Price: $11.99 for a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans

Genesee Brewing Honey Brown

Genesee

Genesee might be known for its iconic Cream Ale, but you definitely shouldn’t sleep on Honey Brown. It’s rich, malty, and filled with honey and caramel sweetness that will make you come back again and again.

Average Price: $5.99 for a six-pack

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