Beer Review 0013: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Like most everything Dogfish Head does, this “brown ale” is a brown ale in namesake only. You better believe this is one jacked up drink and if it were a fish, it would have three eyes and four lips.

Indian Brown Ale is a hybrid of a Scotch Ale, India Pale Ale, and the classic American Brown Ale. So what does Dogfish take from each of these to make Indian Brown? According to the company, this beer embodies the color of an American Brown Ale, caramel flavors found in a Scotch Ale, and a hop blast as found in India Pale Ales. All this combines for an alcohol by volume content (ABV) of 7.2% and a 50 on the International Bitterness Unit scale.

Dogfish brews this beer year-round, so it should be an easy find. Personally, Brown Ale is one of my favorite styles of liquid bread, and I was excited to pop the top on a bottle of Indian Brown on February 4.

This beer poured a very dark brown color with a slightly tannish head that was of average size but lasting quality, which eventually subsided to a nice skim on top of the drink. It’s appearance reminded me of a strong cup of coffee with a nice froth on top. The body was clear with no particles or sediment. Lacing was sparse, but visually this is a very attractive brew.

The aromatics were delightfully complex. The malts were heavy and right away my nose detected freshly roasted coffee with hints of toffee and chocolate; Indian Brown smells very sweet with a light herbal/floral note playing in the background off some earthiness. My nose also detected caramel and a slight tinge of alcohol.

The complexities found in the aromatics worked over my palate as well. Initially, there is a sweet caramel flavor, followed by roasted coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The mouthfeel is incredibly creamy and velvety, which is quite pleasant and makes this higher alcohol content beverage easily drinkable. The flavors go on and on, ending on the bittersweet chocolate that gets more bitter as it continues. I thought I tasted a bit of butter but that may be more a descriptor for the texture than flavor.

I was wowed by Dogfish’s Indian Brown Ale. It’s an incredibly smooth beer that one could easily drink all night, and it’s complex enough to return to again and again. For a “hybrid” beer, I thought this met all expectations except that of the India Pale Ale; the aromatic herbal and floral notes of an IPA were present, but the flavors didn’t turn up at all.

This beer scored high marks all across the board: 13 points in appearance, 14 in aroma, 34 in flavor and palate, and 33 overall. Indian Brown fell one point shy of earning “classic” status.

If you’re like me and Brown Ale is one of your favorite styles, you should definitely check Indian Brown out. It’s classic Brown Ale but with just enough of a departure that you’ll find it intriguingly interesting. This is definitely a beer I will buy again.

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, 94 points. Price: $9.99 US for six pack.

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