You’re probably familiar with IPAs and APAs but have you heard of an ABA? The latest craft beer acronym to hit town, ABAs or American Brown Ales, are a hot topic of conversation amongst brewers and beer drinkers alike.
On the one hand there’s those who think American Brown Ales are unfashionable and uninteresting. Perhaps it’s something to do with the name – let’s face it describing a beer simply by reference to its colour, particularly when that colour is so well, unfashionable and uninteresting, makes it easy to overlook brown ales in favour of more exotic sounding brews. You might even agree that describing a beer as brown tells you no more about how it tastes than describing a wine as red.
One (anonymous!) blogger even went so far as to rather uncharitably claim that ABAs “only really excite people who watch Coronation Street.”
However, in our opinion, an ABA is actually one of the most exciting, and timeless styles out there.
ABAs are subtle, rather than flamboyant - malty, smooth, satisfying, and full of flavour. Most of the flavour of an ABA comes from the malt. Depending on the brewer’s choices you might get toasty, roasty, malty, or caramel tastes. Some even have a hint of chocolate. The balance between malt and hops is also important in an American Brown Ale – even in the hoppier examples. ABAs emphasise the malty centre of the beer, rather than the hops.
Yep, you read that right – malt flavour over hop flavour. In a world full of hoppier and hoppier IPAs, an ABA is (literally) a refreshing taste.
So there’s lots to love about tasting an ABA. Brewers also love brown ales. In America, brewers judge other brewers’ skill by the quality of their ABA. In the words of one of Tinker Tailor’s brewers, who hails from the US of A “there’s nothing to hide behind when making a brown ale. The style is a celebration of good beer and good brewing.”
Another thing that’s great about ABAs is their versatility. As well as being an all-season kind of a style, an American Brown also works well with most foods. So if you are ever unsure about what beer to serve with a meal pick an ABA and you won’t go wrong. The caramel roastiness and substantial mouthfeel make it a good match for things like char grilled kumara (sweet potato) or a barbequed steak. Or try contrasting an aged cheese with the sweetness of an ABA.
An ABA won’t knock your socks off with hoppiness like a strong IPA, nor will it be as astringent as a dark beer. Not too roasty, not too hoppy but just right. American Brown Ales are very drinkable beers with lots of character suitable for anyone who enjoys flavour and maltiness.
As beer drinkers, and breweries, look to expand their horizons beyond a repertoire of IPAs, we here at Tinker Tailor predict a renaissance for the humble American Brown Ale.