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Against the Grain | Brown Note Brown Ale

Against the Grain | Brown Note Brown Ale
Jereme Zimmerman

I tend to be the type of beer drinker who plays favorites. For several years, I fell into a rut of good-beer-drinking. I knew what I liked and that’s mostly what I drank. But my eyes have been opened to the massive range of variety in today’s craft beer scene. In my home state of Kentucky, craft brewing was a little slow to take off but has really hit its stride over the past few years. Lately, I’ve been on a mission to seek out new Kentucky-brewed beers. On a recent visit to Liquor Barn in Lexington, I was perusing the aisles, trying not to get taken in by the label gimmickry that has become prevalent in craft brewing.

I failed. My eyes were immediately drawn to one particular beer, mostly because the label was, well…rather disgusting. I’m all for humor in beer labeling, but, really? Then I noticed the brewery: Louisville-based Against the Grain.

I’m a big fan of their beer and, let’s face it, they do have a history of rather unique and odd labeling. Don’t believe me? Check out their rather motley cast of characters. Each beer they come out with gets artwork devoted to one of the characters.

In an email discussion with Against the Grain’s Marketing Director, Katie Molck, she wrote “When we opened our first brewery, Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse, in 2011 we did so to make beer more creative and fun here in Louisville. For so long, the 90s brewing scene stifled creativity in beer with all the standard recipes and names…like a brewpub making a brown ale and calling it ‘Brown Ale.’ BORING.”

In order to make things more interesting and fun, they decided to catalog all of their beers by a style system and to “humanize” their beer by creating six characters called The Family: Session, Hop, Whim, Malt, Dark and Smoke. Each character has personality traits that exemplify the flavor or characteristic of the beer.

“The idea,” Molck wrote, “is that these characters not only represent the style of beer inside the can, but they also live in the world of that particular beer.”

The lovely artwork on the Brown Note can features Malt, who grew up on a farm in Southern Indiana and is “big and slow, but sweeter than a pecan pie!” A more clothed version of Malt shows up on the Kentucky Ryed Chiquen Barrel-Aged Rye Amber Ale (apparently, “chiquen” refers to anything that is not chicken, and this beer isn’t chicken). Malt doesn’t care for bitter beers, preferring more of a…well…”Him” profile in his beer. This makes him the perfect spokesmodel for Brown Note.

While it does have a hint of bitter, Brown Note is definitely a malt lover’s beer. An American Brown Ale, it’s one of the best I’ve had in a while. I was on a Brown Ale kick for a bit but most that I tried were just okay. Nothing special. Not much character. Brown Note has definitely got character (pun fully intended). On the first sip, I get plenty of maltiness. Not just “oh, I taste malt,” but a rich, nutty full-flavored maltiness. It’s somewhat sweet but not overpoweringly so with hints of toffee and a bit of caramel and chocolate, likely due to the toasted British malts and other specialty malts that are part of the grain bill. It’s also a tad thicker than most brown ales due to the addition of oats. The head dissipates pretty quickly after the pour, but that’s okay because this ain’t no stout.

This is definitely a solid beer that I’ll try again. The artwork may detract from its appeal for some, but the quality of Against the Grain’s beers speaks for itself. If you can’t handle looking at ol’ Malt’s stained undies, just close your eyes, pour into a glass and savor the flavor.

Feature image courtesy of Against the Grain Brewing


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