Review: Short’s Bellaire Brown

by Ryan Urban

Brown ale. There may be no more generic name for a beer style. There may also be no style so nuanced.

Southern English Brown, Northern English Brown, American Brown. They are generally malty, with toffee, caramel, nutty, toasty, earthy tones. But hops can play a role too, providing slight or considerable bitterness, fruity or earthy aromas and flavors.
Brown ales fall somewhere between an English mild and a porter–another category of lots of variation.

Brown ales are kind of hard to pin down–at least for my palate. Many I’ve had can simply be described as “meh.” But others really hit the spot.

After reviewing my Untappd history, it seems I’ve good ones–from Ale Asylum, Surly, South Shore, Stevens Point, St. Francis, Pearl Street, New Holland–but I haven’t revisited any of them in 2 years or more. The exception is Bell’s Best Brown, which, honestly, I buy every fall for the packaging alone–owls are my favorite–though the beer is pretty good too.

When  I want a malty, easy-drinking beer, lagers come to mind–those great Bocks and Dunkels. I’m a lager man–what can I say?

But I can’t help but think I’m overlooking those top-fermenting browns. This realization came to me recently when I bought Short’s Bellaire Brown.

Shorts began distributing in Wisconsin last year, and this is the first and only beer I’ve tried from the Elk, Michigan brewery. I Ignored Short’s unfamiliar lineup for months  until a trusted bottle shop employee recommended Bellaire Brown.

This is my kind of brown. Those heavily-hopped or overly-nutty browns aren’t for me–keep the hazelnut out of my coffee and my beer.

But the Bellaire falls on the subtle side of the style, with nice caramely, toasty tones. The beer also has a wonderful dark brown appearance, perfect tan head and a full body.
However, Short’s says it’s “It’s hardly classifiable as a brown.”

What?! So, I guess I’m still trying to wrap my head around browns.  The journey continues. For now, I’ll pour another Bellaire and just enjoy it.

Goes great with a plate of Gouda and crackers.

Rating: Glass — GROWLER — Case — Keg

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Review: Blacklist Verte

By Ryan Urban

Last winter on a trip to Duluth, Minnesota, I made the goal to visit all of port city’s breweries. Bent Paddle, Canal Park, Fitgers and Lake Superior all offered distinct spaces and great beers.

After browsing Blacklist’s lineup, I searched the Internet earnestly to find its location. I was, of course, disappointed to find it didn’t have one. It was an increasingly-rare contract brewery only.

But, I received a serendipitous consolation, finding Or de Belgique on tap at the Tavern on the Hill restaurant.

I had never heard of Blacklist before that weekend, and had no real expectations.

But I was blown away at first sip. The beer is a malty 9.5% Belgian Golden Strong Ale with all the wonderful complexity associated with the best in the style–Honey, lemongrass, pear, banana, spice and more.

This past January, I visited the Twin Ports again. A quick “Google” revealed that Blacklist now had a taproom. It became the first stop.

In a long, but spacious building with minimalist reclaimed wood trim and barrel-based tables, my female companion and I enjoyed being waited on by a helpful server.

An export stout—simply titled Dark–caught my eye, and proceeded to please my palate. But what next?

Though it wasn’t on the menu, I asked for Or de Belgique, hopeful there was a bottle somewhere. No such luck. But the server pointed to Verte, which he said was Or de Belgique with some extra dry hopping. I took a bomber to go.

I popped it a week later, and was not disappointed.

Dangerously easy-drinking, Verte has the marvelous complexity of the original, with an added dimension with tangy aroma and dryness from the Saphir hops.

I’ll be seeking another bottle on my next trip north. Paired with a salmon plank would be perfect.

Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Review: Door County Brewing Silurian Stout

By Ryan Urban

It’s rare that I remember the first time I had a specific beer. But I remember the first time I had Silurian Stout by Door County Brewing Company.

I was watching Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 at a bar called the Court N’ House—it was near the court house—in Eau Claire.

As an avid Packer fan, I had no reason to root for either team, and just wanted to see a good game. But the bartender asked me to pick a side—there were orange or green Jell-O shots on the line, depending which team scored.

I bet on Denver, which proceeded to get blown out by the Seahawks 43-8. One shot. Thanks, Peyton. The game was… forgettable.

But one beer was not!

Dark, nice tan head served in a weizen glass. Vanilla is apparent on the nose, but subtle enough on the tongue. Sweet and creamy, almost a peanut butter quality, but dark chocalaty, toasty malts held their own—unlike the Broncos.

I began seeing Door County on the shelves shortly after that. With other great beers in the Door County lineup—Polka King Porter, Pastoral Saison, Le Printemps Saison, L’automne Biere De Garde, etc.—the Baileys Harbor brewery has since grown to the point that it is contracting much of its brewing to Octopi, down state in Waunakee, Wisconsin.

I’m not sure where Silurian—a reference to the Silurian Period when the Great Lakes were a much larger inland sea—is brewed currently, but it’s still as tasty as I remember back in 2014.

It would be a good choice once again alongside some bar peanuts and friends when New England and Atlanta play this Sunday. If I can’t pick a winner in the game, I can at least pick one on tap.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg