BridgePort's Beertown Brown

Brown ales are having their moment. Last year, Deschutes released Buzzsaw Brown and this year BridgePort has introduced Beertown Brown. Even the New York Times is hip to the trend. Browns are a worthy and neglected style, one of the only traditional English ales that hasn't made a dent in American brewing. But why now?

In the Jan 22 New Yorker, Eric Konigsberg describes the trend in colors, and maybe there's a hint here. Colors, as you know, follow the mood of the age (you do know that, don't you?): flamboyant and pschedelic in the drug-washed 70s, metalic and gray in the techno-greedy 80s. The aughts, it appears, are gloomy:
"I see an influence from the military situation, and I think it's going to be with us for a while," [pigment specialist Catherin Wunch] said. "I kind of see colors for 2008 as being grayed." Wunch, who has short hair in a square a businesslike cut, passed around a handful of color chips, in gray blues, gray browns, and a grayish pink....

Jill Liebson, a designer for a fabric-printing company in Florida, seemed to agree. "I think we're going to go much deeper than before, because we aren't living in optimistic times," she said. "And in the home people want deep safety."
So, brown ales. Safe and comforting, a touch sweet but not overwhelmingly so--Ovaltine for the soul. This appears to be what BridgePort had in mind with Beertown Brown, which the brewery describes as "an easygoing, drinkable beer." It's not designed to challenge, but to soothe.

Tasting Notes
I love browns, if such a thing can be said about this modest style. They are comforting and, when they're well-brewed, can be a symphony of minor notes. It's not a style that will knock your socks off, but you can be quietly impressed.

Such, sadly, is not the case with Beertown. With mild styles, the line between good and insipid isn't wide, and I'm sad to say that it is on the wrong side. In every way, it fails to measure up: the color is faded, the head fizzy and weak; it is thin of body, and the malt notes are hollow; the hopping is far too mild to provide any interest. It's a watery beer without a distinguishing character. It is not an impressive beer.

But don't take my word for it. The Denver Post gave the beer a mini-review, and they were underwhelmed, as well:
"Beertown is a bit thinner on flavor than its British forebears, with a good malt aroma but not much behind. True to the style, there's just a hint of hops in the finish. It has 5.2 percent alcohol (by volume)."
(You know a beer is timid by Northwest standards when it is regarded as a lightweight in Colorado.)

There may be reason to hope for improvement, though. I got wind of a rumor that BridgePort
may be tinkering with the recipe. Let's hope so--with some more body and 50% more hops, Beertown could easily cross back over the line into subtle excellence. And, if I'm going to manage in the face of all this gloom, I'll need the extra body and hops in my comforting brown.

Malts: Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Alcohol by volume: 5.2%
Original Gravity: 13.2° Plato
Bitterness Units: 20