Fall. The cold winds that blanket the north this time of year take longer to reach this far south.
But like so many of the good things in life, fall is always worth what can seem an interminable wait. As cooler temperatures liberate us from the oppressive heat that frames much of life in Florida, we turn, ever so briefly, from our sun-kissed existence to one draped in somber clouds of gray and dipping mercury. Even in Florida, fall conjures images of a world preparing to enter cold slumber, of fireplaces burning while children outside bundle against the chill.
Unfortunately, temperatures in the 80s can often make those images seem like a fever dream. And for those of us who love to pair a beer to the season, the standard cold weather offerings such as stout, barley wine and old ale, quintessential fall and winter beers because of their warming properties, can seem stifling and heavy-bodied.
So as the weather begins to cool, I reach for a perfect compromise style of beer. Brown ales approach the heft and depth of stronger cool-weather beers, but most brown ales possess less alcohol and an overall lighter body. Brown ales satisfy seasonal beer longings without the sometimes flushing heat and heaviness of stronger beer styles.
Here are a handful of brown ales that offer a seasonal prelude to the cooler weather to come:
Newcastle Brown Ale: Brewed since 1927, this malty, sweet, light-bodied, dark amber beer is easily the world's most recognizable brown ale. Flavor highlights are all malt with a subdued hint of nuttiness.
Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale: Another English import, Samuel Smith's Brown Ale is walnut-hued and features nutty flavor notes with hints of biscuit and brown sugar.
Avery Brewing's Ellie's Brown Ale: This American version features pronounced hop flavors with nutty and toasted caramel accents. It pairs great with hearty and spicy foods.
Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale: This Belgian brown ale features label art from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. Much sweeter than English and American browns, it is highlighted by toffee and sweet brown sugar notes.
Brooklyn Brown Ale: This brown ale keeps one foot solidly planted in English tradition while also working in some American hop assertiveness. It has a light caramel sweetness and finishes dry with soft toast notes.
Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale: This New Hampshire brewery produces a rich malty brown ale with a pronounced toasted grain note and light hints of chocolate.
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar: Hazelnut extract and the addition of noble Saaz hops make for an interesting and approachable brown ale that is heavy on the nuttiness with a balanced malt sweetness.
Abita Turbodog: A lighter-bodied, chocolate-forward brown ale out of Louisiana, Turbo Dog is one of the longest continuously brewed craft brown ales in the southeast.
Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale: Billed as the first beer in the world brewed with roasted pecans, their addition definitely comes across in the flavor profile, in the form of a deep and balancing nuttiness.