|Brown ale is a term covering a broad range of styles united by color and the practice of warm fermentation by ale
yeasts. Although styles such as the German altbier, Belgian dubbel and oud bruin styles fit this description, these
are rarely referred to as “brown ales,” and the term is usually reserved for beer styles with roots in Britain.
The term “brown ale” can easily be confusing, or at least not much more useful than the term “red wine.”
At one time, before the advent of pale malt production in the 1700s, most commercial beers could have been
describes as brown ales. At first these beers were made exclusively from brown malt but, with advances in
kilning technology, pale malts—which also had the advantage of higher yields—became a cheaper and more
reliable alternative. The color and flavor profile was subsequently determined more by modern-style dark malts,
crystal malts, and caramelized sugars.
Once every English brewery included a brown ale in its portfolio, but the popularity of brown ales in Britain has
declined with the loss of heavy industry and the redeployment of the hardy individuals who rewarded their skilled
efforts with glasses of foam-topped dark beer. By the latter half of the 20th century, brown ale had acquired a
“cloth cap” working-class image, and people who aspired to office work set brown ales aside in favor of paler beers.
Craft brewers in the United States, unencumbered by any class images surrounding brown ale, have taken the
style up enthusiastically and transformed it in the process. American-style brown ales are stronger, browner, and
hoppier than their English forebears. Most are full bodied and dry on the palate, with strengths ranging from 5% to
6% ABV, and bitterness tends to be moderate, but can be robust. Roasted and caramelized malts are used heavily
enough to skirt the edges of the porter style, but the best keep the roast restrained, pushing caramel notes to the
fore. Most versions have notable hop aromatics, sometimes brought on by dry hopping.
Melanoidins are brown and flavorsome pigments found in malts and malt products. Their structure varies and,
in general, melanoidins from darker malts have higher molecular weights than those from pale malts (which are
usually more aromatic). The formation of melanoidins is not catalyzed by enzymes, and most reactions do not
require the presence of oxygen. All are formed by a series of complex processes called Maillard reactions and
most of these are still imperfectly understood.
Melanoidin-producing (browning) reactions first occur during malt kilning and are then carried on during wort
boiling. In malt, conditions favoring melanin formation include high temperatures, high moisture levels, and high
amino acid and sugar concentrations. Browning reactions are, of course, carried to an extreme in roasted malts,
such as chocolate, and in caramels.
Because of the above- mentioned Maillard reactions, reducing sugar and amino nitrogen levels will, of course, be
reduced during malt kilning and wort boiling. Flavor contributions by malt melanoidins can include bitter or burned
flavors but also malty, toffee-like, bready, caramel, coffee, and roasted flavors. This being the case, melanoidins
form a basis for the flavor profiles of many beer styles and are also among the major differences between flavors
and aromas found in wine and those found in beer.
Hope you found this month's column of interest. If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just e-mail it to me.
Thanks and Cheers!
|Brown Ale // Melanoidins
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #!2, #13, #14