Last week, my son, Top Jimmy, returned from a vacation to Mackinac Island in Michigan. Being the son who always has Dad in the back of his head, he brought home and gifted me with two sixpacks of Michigan beer from the Michigan Brewing Co. Both beers were perfect for this time of year, one being a brown ale and the other a pumpkin ale.
I had been hankering for a brown ale damn near all summer long but those warm weather seasonals were just too available. What could be more perfect to welcome (pfft!) the cooler weather than a brown ale?
The beer in the spotlight tonight is Michigan Brewing Company’s Nut Brown Ale. I know very little about the brewery and maybe a bit more about brown ales. But one thing that’s always puzzled me was this: do they call it nut brown because it tastes a little like nuts, or is it nut brown because the beer is brown in color like some nuts? Regardless, I will drink this beer and more than likely enjoy it.
Research was the first order of business. Both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate recommended a dimpled mug as the glassware of the day, but I didn’t yet have one in my collection. I chose the next best thing, a hefty glass mug with fluting on the outside. I’m sure the beer will taste just as good.
I grabbed a bottle and noted a few things: the beer was bottled on 9/6/11 so it was still relatively fresh. The bottle had no neck label and the body label, although being a nice glossy picture logo, had no informational blurb about the taste of the beer that was inside. No ABV notice, just the government warning and the name of the brewery.
The Michigan Brewing Company’s website is sorely lacking in the descriptions of their own beers. They’d rather display the labels than talk about what’s inside the beer. Elsewhere, I found that this beer is brewed with two types of caramel malts, dark chocolate and wheat and it weighs in with a mere 15 IBUs. And at 5% alcohol, it stands ready for any session of beer drinking for as long as it takes.
The sixpack carton revealed the only description of the beer inside the bottles inside the carton.
This ale follows the traditions of one of the oldest English brewing styles from the 16th century. The blend of malts provides a caramel and nut flavor with a deep coppery brown color, medium in body and balanced with traditional English Kent Goldings hops. The result is lighter in color and flavor than our porter and stout, yet provides plenty of rich nutty and toasted malt flavors.
It was time say goodbye to Oktoberfest and lawnmower beers and dive into the world of brown and flavorful. With maybe some nuts.
The first beer poured with a giant head of about 4 inches. Hmm. I wondered if it was the glass, the beer or my pour that caused all that foaming action. The beer was a pure brown when the glass was held up to the light. Carbonation consisted of very small bubbles slowly rising to the surface. The aroma was almost nonexistent, having just a slight tinge of smell letting one know it’s a beer and not a cola. The foam was a light tan and had the consistency along the lines of whipped cream. Nice.
The first sip and I was back home again. Nice and malty with a very slight bitterness, smooth and slick all the way down. The beer had a great medium weight body to it and the taste was a serenade to malt.
Sip by sip, the flavors were coming out in the open. With each one, I detected a slight bit of toffee or caramel. A slight sweetness came forward at the beginning only to be overwhelmed by that toff-amel flavor. The swallow was easy going, a slight bitterness there suggested a special malt rather than the zing of hops. Every so often, I’d get a faint hint of coffee and then it’d go away. Like a specter in the night. No sip gave the flavor of nuts, but my tongue may not have learned to pick up that flavor distinction in beer.
Pouring the second mugful yielded another ridiculously massive head of 3+ inches. That made me think that my glass was at fault. Especially so after watching a video of someone pouring the same beer.
This is a great middle-of-the-road English brown ale. It’s taste and it’s conformity to the style are worth the price of a sixer. I’d say this beer is more along the lines of a southern English brown ale rather than a northern one. But of course, I have the BJCP Style Guidelines book opened up right next to me. I don’t know all this stuff, I just know where to look for the answers most of the time.
It may be a go-to beer for after work on a cold day, but I don’t see it as being that. This beer is more about the style, the actual taste of a southern English brown ale. I’m sure that if I went to a pub in the south of England and ordered a brown ale, I’d get one that tasted very similar to this one. This beer had a nice malty backbone with a touch of bitter on the way down, slightly sweet with hardly any hop flavors complicating the experience.
Michigan Nut Brown Ale is a great autumn drinker with a good malty flavor. No surprises. No exotic fruits or jungle nuts or burning leaves. Try it if you can find it. It will help usher in the coming cold months ahead without making your palate run a decathlon.
Taste: B > Screw the weather, this beer is the best part of autumn.
Smoothness: B > A new shellac coating for the tongue.
Drinkability: B+ > Bring ‘em on. It’s gonna be a long season.
Bang for the buck: N/A (Received as a gift souvenir.)
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Kinda dark. Reddish dark. (sip) It’s bitter. I don’t know. (sip) I get a little sweetness but I get a bitterness too. (sip) A little coffee. It’s almost bland. Nothing real stand-outish. (I looked again in a stronger light. Nope. Still all brown, no red.)
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