In praise of brown ale: time to whet your taste buds

They have a bit of a bad reputation, but there's much to like about a quality brown ale

"Twiggy beer" is what nasty people call brown ale, writes Melissa Cole in her Little Book of Craft Beer. This style of beer, she believes, needs a bit of love.

Cole is an award-winning British beer and food writer, and her latest book is a lively, concise introduction to different styles, taking you through 100 beers from around the world including Ireland, where Sligo brewery White Hag gets a mention for its excellent Little Fawn session IPA.

Divided neatly into colour-coded sections, it’s an accessible, easy-going read with a few recipes thrown in too, such as Beery Tempura and wheat beer ice-cream.

But back to brown beers. The fact they are so unloved may have something to do with their appearance – a brown beer is never going to beat a lager in the looks department. But what it doesn’t have in aesthetics, a brown beer can make up for in its many subtleties, something that is often missing in the many big and loud hoppy beers that dominate the shelves these days. Though they’re a long way from being the darling of the craft world, you’ll probably start to see more brown ales as Irish brewers expand and experiment more.


MacNutty by the Lough Gill Brewery in Sligo has been around for a while but it’s a good example of a balanced, easy-drinking brown ale. Made with hand-roasted macademia nuts, it’s got lots of lovely toasted and nutty flavours, with a hint of cocoa, and comes in at 5.5 per cent.

Kildare brewery Rye River produces some tasty beers under the Crafty Brewing Company name for Lidl and it recently released an American-style brown ale. You’ll get some dark fruits on the aroma with plenty of coffee, toffee, roasted flavours and it finishes with a crisp, satisfying hoppy bitterness.