Beerography | The story behind Mackenzie Brewing’s American Brown

American Brown Ale
Very pale brown to caramel with a creamy tan head, nearly see through.

Mackenzie Brewing’s American Brown.

In the pursuit of beer knowledge and experiences, it is important to try as many beer styles as possible and be open to them along the journey. But, I have admittedly developed a fondness for a few styles. One is American Browns.

I’m not really sure why American Browns and I get along so well, but we just do. Fortunately for me, there are several fantastic ABA’s brewed right here in St. Louis.

What is American Brown?

The simplest definition comes from Craftbeer.com:

Roasted malt, caramel-like and chocolate-like characters should be of medium intensity in both flavor and aroma for the American brown ale. American-style brown ales have evident low to medium hop flavor and aroma and medium to high hop bitterness. The history of this style dates back to U.S. homebrewers who were inspired by English-style brown ales and porters. It sits in flavor between those British styles and is more bitter than both.

One of my new favorite, locally brewed American Brown’s comes from Valley Park’s Mackenzie Brewing.

The Back Story

This American Brown was the first all-grain beer ever brewed by Mackenzie owner and head brewer Jeff Doss. “I loved the style then and I am proud of the beer it evolved into since then.”

The final version (that’s on tap now) took 2 years to ‘develop’, because Doss kept ‘fucking with it’ as his brother so eloquently put it.

“It went from good to great, back pretty okay, to what the hell is this – we thought you were bringing the American Brown to the party,” said Doss. “Finally, my brother Greg threatened my life if I didn’t go back to the (near) original formulation and stop messing around with it.  So, because I love my brother and value my health, here it is in its nearly original version.”

While many American Browns tend to lean closer to porters and exhibit more roast character that would suggest that, Mackenzie’s is much paler in color, almost see-through.  With that said, it retains a lot of malt character and complexity that you might not expect from such a pale version.

American Brown is one of the few Mackenzie beers to become standard on their beer menu. And it does have a bit of a hook; if you are not a coffee drinker, you will pick those notes up in the aroma and taste, otherwise your brain washes right over that and sends you straight to a slight bittersweet chocolate hint – and depending on the temperature of the beer, a little dark cherry can peek through.

American Brown In Cans For the First Time

Mackenzie’s American Brown is available in 4 packs of 16-ounce cans, as well as on draft for 6+ months of the year.

The labels are simple and use MKNZ’s graphic styling of the hop as the key graphic prominently displayed on the can, along with our logo.  Mackenzie has three beers awaiting canning and all have very brightly colored labels to distinguish one variety from the other – with the exception of our American Brown that has a Fall appropriate ‘camel-colored’ can.  Graphic artist Heather Cox of Cox Creative, also does most of their graphics.

Tasting Notes

  • Visual:  Very pale brown to caramel with a creamy tan head, nearly see through.
  • Aroma:  Depending on your affinity for coffee, most will detect a slight caramel, or coffee aroma
  • Flavor:  Again, this beer will define who are coffee drinks and who are not.  In general, there is a smooth, dryness that hints at bittersweet chocolate (or coffee).  As the beer warms, it definitely takes on a bittersweet chocolate flavor.  Warming even more, a dark cherry finish is perceptible – but who lets there American Brown sit that long?!
  • Mouthfeel:  Mackenzie’s American Brown is stylistically dry, but has a medium body.  It is refreshing in both the summer and the winter – truly a versatile style.
  • Body:  Medium body and nice creamy head.
  • Ingredients:
    Yeast:  Any Chico strain
    Hops:  Simcoe for bitterness and Cascade for finishing
    Malt: 2-row American barley and an assortment of caramel malts
    Other: lactose (in a small dose) and as with all of our beers, a tight control of the mineral content.
  • Food Pairings:
    Cuisine:  Great with BBQ and soft pretzels!  Try using it in your Beer Cheese to dip the pretzels.
  • Availability: Mackenzie’s American Brown is available in the taproom most of the year, except Summer.  4 packs of 16-ounce cans.
  • Format:  On draft and cans
  • Glassware:   This is a beer perfect for your best Nonic Glass
  • Serving Temp:  Service at 50 would be ideal, allowing some of the bittersweet chocolate character and dark cherry to peek through nearing the end,

Mackenzie Brewing’s American Brown.

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