I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Audrey Hepburn’s 1964 musical My Fair Lady, but if you haven’t (or have), there’s a scene when Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) loses his patience trying to describe Eliza Doolittle to the constable after she’s gone missing. When queried on her description, including eye and hair color, Higgins responds with an exasperated “Brown, Brown, Brown…”
As a child with brown hair and brown eyes, I always felt so… medium. In the middle. Not so dramatic as jet-black, or as bubbly as platinum-blond, or mischievous as a tousled redhead, I was just boring, blasé, nondescript brown. Now that I am older, and wiser, I have learned that blondes don’t have all the fun, redheads sunburn easily, and drama isn’t always a good thing. Brown has its place in the world, as do all medium, middle-of-the-road, dangerously boring, regular, every day things.
A great example of the power of brown is in the world of beer, and specifically, micro-brewing. Brown Ales are nothing new to the brewing scene. Newcastle Brown is a cornerstone of the variety, the original English Brown, brewed first in Newcastle-on-Tyne in Great Britain before Heineken bought it out and moved production to the Netherlands. A traditional nutty flavor is characteristic of the lightly roasted malt that browns are made with, setting it apart from the dark roasted malts of stouts and the pale malts (dried vs roasted) that are used for many varieties of beer lighter in color and flavor. It’s the happy medium between ultra-hopped pale ales and flavored-water pilsners, and a great fix for the mid-season doldrums this winter.
Quartzite Brewing just launched their Browns Lake Brown Ale, which lands a solid bullseye on the what-a-brown-ale-should-be target. Toasty and rich, without overpowering hoppiness, the Browns Lake Brown is a Brown for Brown lovers. Also, one dollar from each beer sold will go to help the Brown's Lake Recreation Association continue to make improvements to the lake, and what’s not to love about that?
Fired Up is sporting a run of Brown Ales right now that will warm your dead-of-winter heart. The Frickenrich Brown (their tap standard) is a staunch brown that gets the job done, but their Whiskey Barrel Brown is intricate and oaky, with whispy traces of actual whiskey flavor floating around. If you like beer, and whiskey, and all the good things in life, try this brown.
Republic Brewing’s Brushfit Brown is a tap standard, and like many brown ales, the perfect middle-of-the-road beer who are bored with blondes and indifferent to IPAs.
Colville Pour House has Two Beers Brewing (out of Seattle) SoBo Brown on right now, and if you don’t mind that westside influence, it’s a pretty solid ale with a hoppier twist than some of the other local browns.
Technically not a brown, but sporting the same mid-roast malt and toasty flavor, Northern Ales always has their Okanagan Highlander on tap - a scotch ale with a touch more bite and toast than your run-of-the-mill brown.
The moral of the story is this: don’t be afraid to look somewhere in between to find good things. Whether it’s beer or weather or politics, sometimes the sweet spot is right in the middle.