Humboldt Brown (Hemp Ale) | Humboldt Brewing Co.

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Humboldt Brown (Hemp Ale)Humboldt Brown (Hemp Ale)

Brewed by:
Humboldt Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.70%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Formerly called "Hemp Ale".

Added by boatshoes on 04-04-2010

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Reviews: 223 | Ratings: 587
Photo of Beginner2
3.85/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like finding under-rated beers... it reminds me that I follow the beat of a different drummer.
Being a California hippie in the 1970s (I was in my twenties, just to date me), I suppose nostalgia makes me like a brew started on the Mendocino Coast (a hippy hot-bed) and then uses the marijuana plant.
But nostalgia is neither a big motivator for me, nor why I like this beer.

It has an interesting history. This modest second generation brewer has gone through a few relationships (Firestone Walker being primary as their current base of operations) and now owned by a beer and wine importer. Breaking the business model of the brewpub, Humboldt has built some healthy relations in the distribution chain. (Experimenting with the business model may be as important as experimenting with recipes in the coming period when America's 3200 craft brewers have to sort themselves out.)

Oh, yes... about the beer...
I like American editions of British styles that stick more closely to the originals (largely that means, "don't go crazy with the hops".) Humboldt Brown actually reminds me of how British Browns blend the malts so the taste buds continue to salivate as the beer warms. The hops and other spicing never take over. I like being left with the taste of malt.

This beer was listed in the "1001 Beers" because of its unique owner and because of the special ingredient (the stuff that gets you high from marijuana actually is not in this beer.) Should this be on the list? Yes, because of its story and its following in what I call the "Anchor tradition" of making minor innovations from the masters instead of extreme leaps.
Let us all praise moderation.

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Photo of Jaygrant1387
3.77/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Good look, had great head retention and nice brown color. Smell of toasty malts. Toasty malts not overpowering but there with a malty finish. great flavor overall and would recommend.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.37/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle from America on Tap
Deep copper/ brown color with a decent tan head. Rich caramel maltiness with hints of chocolate. Light earthy hop. Decent brown ale, but I can't say what the hemp added.

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Photo of Safa1
3.65/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

No hemp flavor to speak of. Decent enough brown ale. Looks great and taste okay. I drank all 6 over 2 weeks but mostly because I didn't go to the beer store. I actually drank a bud ice before this. If that counts for anything.

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Photo of gonzo000
3.93/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this in the bottle at a function. Match look score to smell. Beer was creamy, smooth and had an excellent balance of classic brown flavor. Enjoyed this beer very much!

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Photo of depechemode1983
3.72/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Deep brown with deep red hues. The head was minimal and disappeared quickly. The nose is grainy, toasty with a bit a caramel sweetness distant metal tinge. Again the taste is grainy with roasted oats and a bitter burnt type caramel finish. Feels good. Smooth with pleasant carbonation. Over all not bad. I really enjoyed this one. Might even pick it up again in the future.

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Photo of 513BeerLover
3.57/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Very smooth. Very different from anything I had before. The color looked like a standard brown ale and there wasn't a really distinct smell from what I could gather. Taste wasn't bad, but isn't something I would crave a lot. Good beer to mix it up with, but not something I would consistently buy. Worth buying if you want to try something unique.

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Photo of John_Squires
1.93/5  rDev -44.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

For the most part I'm generally disappointed with American Brown Ales. No exception here, either I really hate the taste of hemp or this is just a bad beer. Bitter with a poor mix of hops and malt.

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Photo of mothmanscott
3.44/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a clear medium brown producing 1.5 fingers of frothy, tan, shortlived head that leaves a slim surface ring & a thin wash of pasty lacing. Aroma dark malt, toast, chocolate, toffee & faint roasted nuts. Taste is fronted by toasted brown bread, a hint of cocoa, roasted nuts, caramel & dark fruity notes at mid-sip & finishing with a note of toffee & bitterness. Aftertaste is burnt malt bitter cocoa & cola caramel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with moderate carbonation, smooth & creamy with a nice prickly bite.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.53/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a medium brown color with a white head. The aroma is full of caramelized malts and a bit of herb, The taste is malty but with some herbal, seedy, rooty flavor from the hemp. Bitter and rooty, with a nice nutty malty sweetness. Even a hint of fruit finds way across seed and grain. Medium bodied, well carbonated, enjoyable and drinkable. Overall, a very good ale. Ya Mon!

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Photo of stephens101
3.8/5  rDev +9.8%

A ruby red sea is capped with a foamy, tan froth. Has a caramel, nut, help and medium fruit aroma. Tastes sweet and smooth with some grain, candy and fruits that mingle with a metallic nuttiness. Somewhat mineraly in the aftertaste. Reminds me of Pynchon's Vineland for some reason... A true underdog beer that deserves better than it's lot.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
3.77/5  rDev +9%

Purchased from the Wolf Stop in Aberdeen, SD. Poured into my new Miller Pilsner glass.

Appearance (4) : Pours a dense, creamy three fingered head with a nice creamy cap on top. Body is dark honey brown with about 70% opacity. Leaves lacing on the glass and a memory foam like appearance complete with a couple of "finger poke tests", on the head.

Aroma (4) : Barley heads, honey, barrel aged malt, a little ginger spice. Some rainforest and/or moss. A very clean and pleasing aroma. Bouquet is light to medium strength.

Taste (3.75) : Coffee bean bitterness hits first, mixed in with some barley malt. Behind that is a grapefruit bitterness, which follows through to the finish. Faint honey and ginger notes float around in there, too. I was not expecting the bitterness that came from this beer - in fact I was expecting a malt-forward brown, but actually the flavor isn't bad at all. It's quite enjoyable. Belches taste like wheat chex.

Mouthfeel (3.75) : Medium bodied, fairly creamy yet still watery, ends grapefruity and dry.

Overall (3.77) : This brown has hop presence, there's no denying that. It's a good beer overall. I don't think I'm swayed enough to buy a six pack, but it is a pretty decent beer. I would have it again if offered.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.03/5  rDev -12.4%

12 oz bottle into a wine glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark burgundy color. The head is a finger high, and off-white in shade, maybe slightly leaning towards mocha. It has a nice texture but low retention. A bit of lacing is left on the glass. (3.5)

Smell: There are a couple of interesting notes to be found. It's decently chocolaty (usually my favorite feature in a brown ale), with some lesser brown sugar. It also has a maltiness similar to an amber ale (i.e.: burnt caramel and toffee) which is a bit more offputting. If I really concentrate, I get hemp seed. It's a *very* subtle addition, though. All in all, there isn't much here that helps it stand out from the pack. (3)

Taste: The initial caramel flavor here is rather sweet, blending with a brown sugar note. Its finish smacks of cola, while there's a gentle biscuit tone throughout. Really, this is all the beer is offering: its advertised adjunct isn't coming through very well at all. Easygoing, just not remotely exciting. (3)

Mouthfeel: If nothing else, it's somewhat light in body. This helps to make it drinkable. The actual texture has a cake-like density to it - if I had to pick my favorite feature of this brew (and it's tough, frankly), that would be it. Carbonation is medium. (3)

Overall: This is pretty damn forgettable. In many ways, it's reminiscent of Fat Tire - which is more or less the most average beer on the planet. Just like Fat Tire, I'll have no trouble drinking this, nor any trouble drinking a free one offered to me. I just won't buy it for myself, that's all. Still, something like this would make a decent gateway beer for BMC drinkers. (3)

3.03/5: If nothing else, a good Fat Tire alternative

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Photo of Slatetank
3.53/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

I purchased this at Brass Rail Deli in Campbelltown, enjoyed chilled in a goblet from the 12oz brown bottle.

The color is deep brown with translucent clarity with crimson hue at base of the glass...the head comes and goes and leaves a ring of tiny pale tan beads. The smell is very fruity -as in dried fruit with woody raisin type aroma. The smell has a light hint of dark cherry. The feel is thin with moderate carbonation with light sweetness and mild phenolic almost medicinal tinge bt the sweetness hides that and finish is lightly spiced.

The flavor is a mix of woody hops with raisin-like taste from the malt and yeast mixing with a strange herbal element that comes of as nutty and slightly earthy with subtle fig-like aspect which is more like dark toffee but not that sweet. The flavor has a mild yeast taste I can't place or perhaps it is the hemp. Overall I like this but would probably not get this again, there are many brown ales I prefer to this in the same abv range.

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Photo of chinchill
3.4/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle dated 26 July 2012 served in a snifter. "Brewed and bottled by Nectar Ales" on the label.

Pours clear, deep mahogany in color, with a large and durable tan head and excellent lacing (1st sample had a fragile and small head).

Aroma; a mix of with caramel and toffee malts, with a hint of alcohol infused dark fruits and an off aroma that may indicate I left this in my refrigerator for too long.

Flavor: hmm, a buttery (diacetyl?) component that is not entirely bad. Medium and dark roasted malt base. I believe I can taste the hemp seeds too; at least there’s an unusual nutty-herbal note. Slightly sweet until the balanced finish. Mild malty-toffee aftertaste.

Feel: Very smooth, with excellent, soft medium carbonation.

O: 2012 bottle probably past prime; revisited with fresh bottle in Nov. 2014 -- rating upgraded

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Photo of JuicesFlowing
3.25/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Poured into a shaker pint glass.

Look: Muddy brown, a ruby hue comes through in the light. A cream colored head recedes to a film, little or no lacing.

Aroma: Caramel, toffee, and a really good chocolately fudge nose.
Some earthy, wet grassy notes in the back end.

Taste: This beer really is chocolatey, like Tootsie Rolls. Some toffee can be detected too, with a spicy and dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied.

Overall: I really enjoyed all of the malts and chocolate notes on this.

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Photo of FLima
3.68/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Brown reddish color with a thin beige head with short retention, but leaving laces.
Aroma of caramel, pine, licorice and spices.
Flavor of caramels, bold spices including hemp seeds (don’t ask), some cola and dark fruits, American yeast, nuts, toasted malts, mild coffee and dark chocolate, earthy hops and pine. Dry aftertaste with a mild bitterness.
Light body with appropriate carbonation.
Tasty, but not really a bold Brown Ale, partially due to expectations given the unexpected ingredient. I did like the rounded spicy profile.

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Photo of jimmah120
3.54/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle with a date on it. I will admit that I bought this because of the pot leaf.

Dark brown-amber, clear, small sudsy head that fades pretty quickly. Smell is very light: faraway nuts and fruit. Taste is crisp and nutty, with oily pine, but is mostly a cloying rose flavor that im not digging. And I don't see the hemp or pot influence at all.

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Photo of GrumpyGas
4.07/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Humboldt Brown carries an airy dissipating head over a rich brown body. The smell is fresh and outdoorsy. It has a sweet dark malt flavor that leans more toffee, which I prefer, than coffee. The clean and crisp aftertaste is a nice surprise given the milky, but not clinging, mouth feel.
This is an easy drinking beer with little alcohol burn.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Humboldt Hemp Ale (Humboldt Brown) has a very thick, soapy, beige head, a straightforward brown appearance, with a bit of haze and some lacing left behind. The aroma is of overriding sweetness, medium-roasted barley malt, and it’s pungent. Taste is of those elements, with a nice, noticeable, but not harsh, hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium and a tad slick, and Humboldt Hemp Ale finishes mostly dry, refreshing, and easy going. No alcohol detected. Also, I did not detect anything that I would associate with the hemp seeds.


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Photo of BeerWithMike
3.77/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Sampling right now on 1/26/14. Bottle was chilled down to 36 degrees F in my beer cooler and poured into a pilsner '14' pool ball glass.

Pours a hazy deep reddish-brown in color with just a thin off-white head. Some decent lacing was seen with each sip. Average carbonation. Lots going on with the aroma with some roasted malt, caramel, floral and toffee. The taste has even more going on and is hard to describe. A sweet dry aftertaste is noted but isn't harsh. Not bad at all and is a different brew

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Photo of superspak
3.68/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into pint glass, bottled on 4/16/2013. Pours slightly cloudy deep reddish brown color with a 1 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass, with some light streaming carbonation. Aromas of caramel, toast, toffee, brown sugar, biscuit, light chocolate, light nuttiness, herbal, floral, and toasted earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark malt and light hop/hemp notes; with solid strength. Taste of caramel, toast, toffee, biscuit, brown sugar, light chocolate, light nuttiness, herbal, floral, and toasted earthiness. Minimal bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toast, toffee, biscuit, brown sugar, light chocolate, light nuttiness, herbal, and toasted earthiness on the finish for a bit. Nice balance and robustness of dark malt flavors with light hop/hemp presence; with no cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and body; with a moderately creamy and smooth mouthfeel that is good. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is a nice brown ale. Good balance and robustness of dark malt flavors and very smooth to drink. A nicely enjoyable offering.

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Photo of AwYeh
3.21/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Clear, reddish-brown cola color with a finger of thin tan head that dissipates quickly.

S: Sweet and malty, a little toasty and nutty. Nice pine hop aromas. I'm not sure if I'm smelling anything unique from the hemp, but it's pretty nice.

T: Follows from aroma; pretty balanced without any of the flavors being too strong. Vaguely sweet with piny complements.

M: Thin/medium body, with moderate carbonation. Smooth and a little dry.

O: "Okay" works well to describe this one- nothing is offensive or particularly good, so I didn't mind drinking it but also wasn't particularly enthused.

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Photo of NiceTaps
3.36/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap in a pint glass.

A- Reddish brown color, 2f tan colored head. Lots of rings of lacing. Bubbly.

S- Mild hop aroma, floral. Very malty, sweet caramel..

T- Mild brown ale flavors of caramel and sweet malts.

M- Modest body, good carbonation. Easy on the alcohol. Malt finish is mild.

O- It's drinkable in its mildness, but could use a flavor boost.

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Photo of mactrail
3.19/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark reddish mahogany color in the Ommegang chalice. Really quite attractive while the head lingers. The mouthfeel is less carbonated and a little oily. Rather musty smell. No trace of hops. Something herbal about this but not really any bitterness.

There is something like a dry chocolate or rather carob flavor. Some odd sweetness lingers in the aftertaste. This seems well made but the taste gets a little tiresome. It doesn't seem to have either the crispness of a more refreshing beer or the roasted malt of the better Browns. From the 12 oz bottle purchased at Bine & Vine in San Diego.

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Humboldt Brown (Hemp Ale) from Humboldt Brewing Co.
79 out of 100 based on 223 ratings.