- Mike Riedel
When a brewery finds success with any given beer, the natural inclination is to build upon that progress by enticing existing costumes, while still trying to woo others. Whether it's alcohol, augmented flavors or a simple hop rearrangement, challenging the customer really helps define what a brewery is capable of. This week, we have a pair of ales that are enhanced versions of their former selves—and they have taken very different paths.
Grid City - Extra Brown Ale: No drastic changes have happened to this ale; the brewer simply added more of everything that was already there. Yet the result is a much different beer. The Extra Brown pours a thick, crispy chocolate cream head over a deep burgundy brown body, with ample carbonation. Retention is average at best, and lacing is light and spotty. T
The aroma is sweet, roasty and creamy altogether. Medium roasted brown malts, creamy molasses, caramel and toffee build a complex, moist and sweet body, while hints of chocolate, dark roasted coffee linger in the back. A nutty, sweet malt character emerges, with the potency medium-high.
Upfront with the taste, molasses malts, a pinch of smoke and some mild earthy sweetness form a deep, complex malt body. The finish is accentuated by an earthy hop blend, featuring a subdued bitterness. This has quite an enjoyable and complex flavor, with hints of caramel, toffee, chocolate and espresso all on display in this complex but approachable brown ale. The texture is slick, mildly chewy and roasty, while the carbonation generates a smooth silkiness for a complimentary mouthfeel. Body is medium for the style, and 6.6 alcohol presence is low.
Overall: A great "food beer" that pairs as well with sweet chocolate-based desserts as it does with roasted meats. Brewed in the style of an English Brown Ale, it's most certainly worth a try for those who haven't yet found their "winner" Brown Ale.
Proper - Carroso: This is Proper's Gruit (beer bittered with herbs and spices rather than hops) that has been aged in Pinot Noir barrels. The barrel-aging definitely takes this ancient ale style to a whole different palace. An amber-hued beer that takes on some red highlights from the barrel, it features a white foam that builds but doesn't have much staying power. The nose has a barrel presence—a light funk with some wooden aromas. The botanicals come through as well, as the beer has some floral aspects. There are some juniper scents that may not be real, but are pleasing nonetheless. Otherwise, the perfume of the alcohol from the barrel is absent.
A moderately tart opening shares with, then ultimately yields to the malt; apricot and nectarine come to mind. A light draw on the tongue gets released as the floral aspects emerge, and the beer seems to sweeten slightly into more of a peachy flavor. There's a little numbing action in the back that resembles mint, but it's not actually minty—more like anise. The ending is similar to what I get in the lingering flavors of a well-made fortified wine.
Overall: This 9.5 percent ale is another hit for me from Proper from an enjoyment point of view. The Pinot Noir barrel provides a nice accent, and the flavors all work well together. The beer isn't bold, but also not weak. I'm actually a little annoyed at seeing the bottom of the glass, and might grab another after I finish this one.
Both of these beers would have done well over the holidays, but I'm glad they weren't ready until now. The classic and complex flavors are perfect now that we're finally getting our first real taste of 2021's winter. As always, cheers!