I cracked open brown ale of ours. After a week of drinking nothing but brown ales from around the region ( bought a few sixers and split them with my brother) I was starting to wonder if I would tire of the style before I got to ours. I didn't, and this is good, because I have two and a half cases of it, and it used to be my favorite style of beer.
I say used to, because I know my tastes have changed, but not exactly how. Am I more used to hops, or do I need a stronger beer than the traditional brown offers? I don't know. Most people are familiar with only one or two specific brown ales. The standard for most is the Newcastle Brown Ale, and was the first brown that I ever came to know. The other is either Fullers, or something like Theakson's Old Peculiar. Both are different from the Newcastle, (employing black or darker roasted malts), but are actually considered the same style as Newcastle (considered Northern English Style Brown Ale). There are Southern English or London Style, American Style, and Texas Style. There are also mild ales.
Some would say (the English in particular) that Brown Ale is nothing more than a bottled Mild Ale. I have no particular experience with traditional Mild Ales (served mostly on draft in England), but Mild Ales served by American craft brewers seems to me to be a brown lacking any body or taste or a Brown in color only.
American Browns are browns that are a little more substantial, employing more roasted malts (like chocolate, or to a lesser degree black patent) having more flavor a little more alcohol, and a little more hops than traditional English Browns. I think I have grown to like these beers more and the traditional Newcastle a little less. Although, when I do have the occasion to have a Newcastle.....yum. Another thing I have noticed is that I used to be able to get Newcastle on tap at a number of my favorite bars around town, and it was on par in cost with popular craft beers, but now, it is rare to find it on tap, and being an import, is now priced more in line with the premium craft products. What a shame.
In my opinion, brown ale (and its darker cousin, Porter) is the least likely thing to be on tap in a regular bar. Even in bars that specialize in craft beers, you will see a couple of local choices, a couple of import choices, three or four national craft choices, and three or four national light lagers. If there is a dark, it is a stout (more often Guiness at $5 or more a pint....rip off (and I don't like Guiness)), maybe something like Shiner Bock, an amber or red, always a wheat or Blue Moon, and if they are really really upscale, a local IPA or something from Dogfish Head.....boring. I don't go out as much anymore.
Brown ales don't get much attention from American tastebuds, and I think it is unfortunate. A brown ale is a great medium bodied beer that you can have more than one. It tends towards the sweet malty (and some say nutty, but I don't really get that) with just a touch of earthy hops (English East Kent Golding is my favorite) for bitterness and flavor (no aroma). If you make it, go light on the chocolate malt, and really light on any black malts (if any). Or come on by, and share one of mine. I have a lot, and now that I am fully employed, don't drink nearly as much.