Beer Review 0182: Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA (Texas Brown Ale)

Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) enjoy collaborative beers. They REALLY enjoy it; they’ve released several of them — one of the latest is an effort with Bear Republic (Cloverdale, California) and Fat Head’s (Middleburg Heights, Ohio) and comes in the form of a Texas Brown Ale.

What is a Texas Brown Ale? It dates back to the 1980’s when a home brew recipe was floating around for a traditional Brown Ale, supercharged with Cascade hops. As this new style started gaining popularity, particularly around the California area, it was soon realized there were no categories to enter this beer into when it came to competitions. So, at a beer competition in Texas, someone created a “California Dark” category, but later the American Homebrewers Association changed it to Texas Brown Ale.

This collaborative effort is brewed with Bravo, Brewer’s Gold, Cascade, and Columbus hops. This marks the first time that Stone has ever used Cascade hops, which is kind of hard to imagine, but true (they also produced their 2012 version of Old Guardian Barley Wine with Cascade; a review of that beer will be upcoming). The malt bill features Pale 2-Row, Crystal 60, Toasted Wheat, Victory, and Chocolate Malt. TBA is 7.1% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 81 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). While this beer will age for a few months, it is recommended that you enjoy this one fresh because of the hop-forward flavor profile; it even says on the bottle “drink fresh, do not age.”

TBA is dosed with brown sugar and molasses to add more complexity, at the suggestion of Bear Republic’s Brewmaster Richard Norgrove, Jr.

Pouring made for a huge head that overflowed my glass, and I poured fairly understated — so be careful, or you’ll have a mess like I did. The color of the beer was deep amber/light brown, but when held in light, this one glowed bright red, which was a nice sight to take in. The body of the beer was filled with small particles and sediment, making this one take on a muddy appearance. The lacing left behind, despite the massive and lasting head, was very sparse.

On the nose, “extra hoppy brown ale” this is, indeed. That’s what my nose detected first, in the form of classic California grapefruit and resinous pine. There’s some really sweet malts here as well; the brown sugar used in the brew really comes through, along with a fairly sharp burnt note that is almost woodsy. TBA has a complex nose that verges on a black tea-like character, and even hits at some somewhat off-putting medicinal scents.

This beer hits the palate with a hoppy start featuring citrus, but quickly couples up with a big time burnt note; between the two, a strong bitter flavor is immediately kicked out that just ramps up even more on the finish. Whatever brown sugar/molasses notes that were intended to be here, I never found. The finish is very roasted but it never once turns sweet, instead riding an intense wave of bitterness that dries out the mouth and leaves the tongue feeling gritty.

TBA is a decent beer, certainly not outstanding, but my big problem is that this in no way reminded me of a Brown Ale. Even being a Texas Brown Ale, I was surprised by the amount of bitterness, and I think anyone picking this up with an impression of a typical Brown Ale will be making a huge mistake. That said, if you enjoy bitterness with roasted flavors, you’ll enjoy this. The hop profile here mainly just provides a touch of citrus and a load of bitter, so even hop heads might not be satisfied.

This is an interesting style of beer, for sure. My first Texas Brown Ale.

Bear Republic / Fat Head’s / Stone TBA (Texas Brown Ale), 85 points. Price: $2.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.


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