After Dave both packaged and delivered the kegs of our latest beer to me, I have finally tapped both the brown and the blonde. After tasting the blonde twice, I am not sure that cascade and northern brewer hops play well together in this beer. Perhaps I don't like hops....hard to say. The blonde has both the bitter as well as a citrus and grassy hop flavor. The thing that bothers me more, is that lighter colored beer drawn from my kegs tends to stay cloudy until the end of the keg. I probably could fix that with lagering closer to or slightly below freezing for a spell (my serving temp is 38 degrees). I hate to do that because if I drop the temperature of my beer it screws up the pour (colder beer holds on to CO2 more readily) and changes the taste (colder beer flavors are subdued and the higher carbonation makes the taste more sharp so that roasted malts bring out astringent flavors)....that is why ales should be served warmer (upper 40's). I keep my beer colder at 38 and it improves as it warms.
In my head, I have been toying with either making a new kegerator and converting my current one back to a lagering/fermentation chamber, or building a lagering vessel. I have had the idea to use thermoelectric refrigeration. This will allow me to build whatever I want without having to rely on refridgeration/coolant. The problem is that thermo-electric cooling is much, much, less efficient....so, these are future posts, and I will leave it alone for now.
Right now, I have the first pour from our American Brown Ale and our Robust Porter Side By Side. The beers themselves look pretty similar, both opaque porter is black, brown is of course, very, very, dark brown. Both have a nice head, the porter is more tan, the brown's is more off white. both heads leave slight lacing on the glass and have remained the entire time.
The Porter has a definite roasted aroma while the younger brown is offgassing a little alcohol with more carmel/almost grainy smell (like the smell of mashing, which I like). I expect the alcohol smell to subside in a few weeks time.
The tasting side by side is difficult, because if you taste one than the other, and then try the reverse, I think you get something different each time. The porter, has a presence with either the hop and malt combo or just the sharpness up front from the dark malts where the brown does not have the bite. The brown does have a definite hop bitterness but a more malty but not really sweet finish. The porter's finish is more creamy (brown is thinner). There is a difference in mouthfeel.
Which is better? I will punt on that answer for about a month to let the brown mellow (and the porter is likely to be better as well) before I decide for certain. Right now the porter wins, but I might like a mix of the two better than either.