Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown | Hook & Ladder Brewing Company (No. 2)

184 Reviews
Hook & Ladder Backdraft BrownHook & Ladder Backdraft Brown

Brewed by:
Hook & Ladder Brewing Company (No. 2)
Maryland, United States

Style: English Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Todd on 01-21-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 184 | Ratings: 236
Photo of Knapp85
3.35/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours out as a clean looking brown color. The head is a shade of tan that doesn't have too much retention. The smell is semi sweet with some roasted nuts in the aroma. The taste is nutty upfront and fades into a light roasted flavor in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is pretty light very drinkable. Overall this is a decent brown ale.

 343 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
3.3/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

After drinking and reviewing the Lighter and the Golden Ale, I'm hopping for better from the Backdraft Brown.

Appearance is convincing enough with a crystal clear, dark brown hue and the same, terrific head formation, retention, and lacing found in the previous two beers.

Aroma of caramel, toffee, and barley malts set the tone for pine and orange zest hop scents. No fruitiness, no phenolics... a very clean and simple beer to the nose.

Flavors are much more toasty than the nose suggests and dominate the malt flavors and caramel sweetness that the aroma promises. Lightly acidic taste with low-lying hop flavor. Still no ester or phenols present.

Textures take the lead from the acidic flavors and give a mild astringency in the throat. Quite acrid, powdery, and dry to the palate. Somewhat Schwarzbier-like.

The beer fits the bill for an American brown, but could use some help in the malt flavors and roundness in the body. Still, I like the dry attenuation, but the acidic flavors and feel hurts in the end.

 1,019 characters

Photo of zeff80
3.82/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a clear, brown color with ruby highlights. A small, tan head of foam emerged but left little lacing as it receded.

S - It smelled very nutty with earthy undertones. There was a mild malt nose, too.

T - Upon first sip, I got a good dose of hazelnut. It has a biscuity malt backbone with sweet caramel and toffee flavors.

M - It was relatively crisp and smooth. A light bodied brown ale that goes down easy.

D - A nice tasting brown ale. It certainly is worth a try. Brown ale isn't my favorite style but it is a good one for a session style and Hook & Ladder has a quality brown ale to fit the bill.

 617 characters

Photo of Thorpe429
3.08/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes.

Served in a pint glass. Color is a moderately-dark brown with a tan head that persists for a bit before falling. Nose is quite plain with a bit of caramel and bread. The taste is bready with some light sweetness. Decent body with normal carbonation levels. Really just don't have too much to say about this one.

 333 characters

Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.45/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a dark brown color, with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thin lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is faint but contains roasted malts, maple, caramel, nuts and a touch of hops.

T: The taste is malty with flavors of nuts, maple and caramel. There's a mild hops presence that provides a decent balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Smooth with a little crispness, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is dry.

D: A little tasty, goes down easy, not too filling, mild kick, decent representation of style, this isn't really a bad beer but it certainly wouldn't be the first brown ale that I would select.

 707 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.73/5  rDev -24%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pecan shell brown that becomes dark bronze-dark orange when the pint glass is backlit with indirect sunshine. The crown is a scant two fingers of oatmeal colored foam that is creamy enough to look good and tacky enough to leave a decent amount of lace. No complaints so far.

The nose is too weak. Brown ale would have been my first guess, but there really isn't much to go on. A whiff of cocoa and a miniscule amount of vanilla is about it. It's also impossible to appreciate the Cascade hops that are supposed to be present.

Unfortunately, Backdraft Brown is just as wimpy on the palate. It almost makes me think the brewers are aiming for a light version of the style. If not, then they need to add a whole lot more malty guts to pull this brew up to code. Are ingredients that expensive?

This American brown ale really does taste like a garden variety version cut with distilled water. No lie. My first impression of an average taste score was overly optimistic. Other than watery cocoa and a faint bitterness, there isn't anything to describe. Ummm... Cascade hops? More like Cascade hop.

The mouthfeel feels slightly more full than water as the beer warms. Again, comparisons to a light lager would not be out of line. In addition, the carbonation feels lousy because it's both harsh and short-lived. A low point for sure.

Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown not only didn't set my world ablaze, it left me cold. I think it's great when breweries give a portion of their proceeds to such worthy causes as local fire and rescue teams. It would be even better if they would maximize those charitable contributions by brewing beer that people want to buy a second time.

 1,670 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.02/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Great lace on the glass. Proper size head with little shrinkage. Ruby, dark brown color. Light passes through and it appears to be perfectly clear.

Lots of chocolate ice cream aroma. Good hop in the background. Strong caramel and slightly sweet. Very attractive smell; inviting.

This is a solid brown ale offering. Good crystal and chocolate malts are featured in the initial taste. Excellent hop balance. Not as sweet as the smell would suggest, but not exactly dry either. The bitter hop balances the beer during the swallow. The aftertaste is well-balanced with some dry mocha flavors and mild hop. The body is this beer's weak point--it is far thinner than a typical ABA. Good carbonation.

 695 characters

Photo of Jason
4.1/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 12 oz brown long neck bottle with no freshness date. No other info on the label.

Appearance: Deep ruddy brown colour with a more than decent off white lace.

Smell: Sweet coffee and toffee mix, more coffee for sure.

Taste: Moderately bodied with a crisp biting mouth feel and carbonation. A fairly dry brew, hop bitterness is sharp but not overboard. Middle of the line roasted malt character defines that this is still a brown ale or a poor man’s porter. The roasted flavour goes a bit nutty and flows into the dry finish with the bitterness.

Notes: I could definitely vision myself sitting down and making this a session brew. Every once in a while a beer comes along and tweaks my fancy ... this is one.

 737 characters

Photo of WVbeergeek
2.41/5  rDev -32.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours a dark ruddy mahogany brown hue with a light beige head that forms thick and dwindles slowly. Chunks of scattered lacing are left clinging to the sides of my glass. Aroma a roasted caramel accent about it with light herbal hops, with a nutty finish to it all. Flavors are a muddled watery mess of roasted malt and weird chocolate caramel coated fruit, no real hops the finish tastes like muddy cocoa. Mouthfeel is watery and pretty thin for a brown, but finishes with the cloying residual sugar muddled mess I tried to describe in the flavor. I'm guessing this is a contract brew by High Falls but I'm not sure. Drinkability overall is pretty weak not something I will ever look for again.

 695 characters

Photo of jwc215
3.03/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours shiny brown with a very thin off-white head that becomes a patch.

The smell is of burnt toast, some brown sugar, husk.

The taste is of caramel, burnt toast - not quite ashy, but close. There's a bit of brown sugar, a hint of nuts, a touch of sour and some non-descript hop touch. Slightly metallic as it progresses. It says "Cascade" - could have fooled me.

Light-bodied and on the fizzy side with a lingering burnt flavor.

Despite its "burnt"character and other small detractors, there is something of a drinkability - maybe its general mildness. Overall, a lackluster brown.

 587 characters

Photo of Tone
3.68/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear, dark brown color with a lighter brown along the edges of the glass. 1/2 inch head of an off-white color. Good retention and good lacing. Smells of yeast cleanliness, slight sweet malt, hint of hops, and a hint of roasted malt. Fits the style of an English Brown Ale. Mouth feel is smooth and crisp with an average carbonation level. Tastes of slight roasted malt, sweet malt, slight grain, hint of hops, and yeast cleanliness in the finish. Overall, good looking beer with a better flavor than aroma.

 515 characters

Photo of Gavage
3.86/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: clear brown in color with reddish highlights. Big 3" head lasts quite a while. Nice lacing paints the glass.

Smell: caramel and a hint of earthiness is mild but pleasant.

Taste: caramel, mild plums, hints of brown sugar, some mild earthiness, and a mellow bitterness. Well balanced beer.

Mouthfeel: lightly crisp to start, smoother towards the finish. Medium bodied beer. Aftertaste is short-lived.

Drinkability: nice sessionable brown ale.

 456 characters

Photo of tempest
2.08/5  rDev -42.1%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Man, what's up with these beers? I've tried all three and they reek of minerals and phenols. It's like the brewing water is all out of whack. The flavor has a bitter chocolate flavor and a dry finish, but the medicinal phenol taste throws everything off. It seems like there might be a decent brown ale hidden under the massive phenols.

 336 characters

Photo of tone77
3.53/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a very dark brown color with a small head. Smell is of malts, some toffee. Taste is good, malts, toffee, and nuts. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and has good drinkability. Overall this makes for a quality brew.

 252 characters

Photo of WesWes
3.28/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a nice brown color with a 1/2" tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a roasted and caramel malt that's a bit sweet, yet dry to the nose. The taste is average. It has a very dry, roasted flavor that is quite thin and watery. It has some caramel flavor as well, but it's faint at best. The mouthfeel is average also. It is a low/medium bodied beer with a little too much CO2. This is an average brown ale. It needs more crystal malt flavor and more body. It's too highly carbonated with little malt character.

 550 characters

Photo of Stinkypuss
2.56/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

12 oz bottle into pint glass. Light brown in color. Alittle lace is found on the glass. Small malty aroma. Taste is watery caramel, toffee and then nothing. Watery feel, brown sugar, little else. Sessionable, if you like watery, barely carbonated beer.

 252 characters

Photo of jdhilt
3.41/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours with a four finger light tan head that fades slowly to a thin layer leaving some lace. Almost black hints of mahogany highlights. The nose is roasted coffee. Light carbonation and medium body. Flavor is roasted coffee with some hoppiness. $1.50 for 12oz bottle from Capitol Convenience, Concord, NH. Label is Hook & Ladder Brewing - contract brewed by Mercury.

 366 characters

Photo of weeare138
3.77/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appears a semi-transparent dark amber with a small, light tan head that slowly fades. Small streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of brown sugar, caramel, toasty malts, whoppers candy.
Taste is of malty grains, grainy nuts, and brown sugar.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied with light bitterness that is outweighed by the overall sweetness of this beer.
Overall, it's decent and drinkable.

 400 characters

Photo of cjgator3
3.21/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle

A- Pours a dark brown color with a light tan colored head that has pretty good retention and lacing qualities.

S- The aroma is sweet roasted malts with caramel, chocolate and hints of nuts as well. The aroma is a little too faint though.

T- The taste like the aroma features some sweet roasted malts and caramel flavors but the taste is pretty subdued like the aroma.

M- The mouthfeel is slightly more than light bodied with a good amount of carbonation.

D- Not a bad brown, but there are many more out there that I would rather spend my money on.

 564 characters

Photo of beerthulhu
4.35/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured a rich dark walnut from the bottle. In the glass appeared a warm cola with deep plum highlights. A thin beige colored head, ½ finger in height, sits atop and disperses rather quickly. A fairly good ring lacing encircles the glass.

S: The nose yielded a nice nuttiness with a deep caramel malty sweetness. A nice fruitiness of cherries and dark ripe fruit are also detected.

T: The flavor had a deep caramel and rich nuttiness that stood out tired and true per style. Some ripe dark fruit and cherries that was so dominant in the aroma translates really well into the flavor. The caramel malting was dark and sweet with a touch of dryness. Some rum raisin alcohol and barrel woodiness also contribute to this fine example per style. The malting I thought was really good, warm roasted with a touch of cascade hops which gave this a earthy dry flowery hopping. I really enjoyed this and found it top notch per style.

M: creamy with a smooth consistency. A nice nuttiness and maltiness gracefully coat the tongue. The carbonation was medium-strong in nature bringing things to live, dancing on the tongue. Everything you could ask for per style was here.

D: Probably one of the better browns I can recall. The rating says it all. You certainly cant go wrong here and a case will certainly not go to waste.

 1,320 characters

Photo of RBorsato
4.6/5  rDev +28.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Tasted on-tap 05/22/07 at Bungalo Billiards in Chantilly, VA.

Dark brown (almost black) in color with a nice light brown head. Nice robust hoppy and malty aroma and flavor. A very nicely balanced beer with lots of citrusy hops, roastiness, and some chocolate. Medium bodied and very smooth. Very sessionable.

A very nice Robust American Brown Ale ... seek this one out.

Per H&L website: Cascade hops.

 409 characters

Photo of bluejacket74
3.63/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle. Served in a pint glass, the beer pours brown with a half-inch off-white head. Head retention is OK, lacing is good. It smells like caramel malt, nuts, toasted malt and brown sugar. The taste is similar to the aroma, however the beer also has a nice bitter hoppy finish. Mouthfeel/body is light/medium, it's a bit slick and has average carbonation. Drinkability is decent, it's smooth and easy to drink. I think it would be a decent choice as an occasional session beer. Overall I think it's a decent brew, I'd drink it again in the future.

 556 characters

Photo of avalon07
3.53/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: When poured from a bottle to a pint glass, this beer had a dark brown color and a fairly thick consistency. The head was about a quarter inch and long-lasting. Good lacing.

S: Very malty, somewhat nutty aroma along with some sweets.

T: Decently complex taste, with malt, chocolate, caramel and some other sugars evident. Had a slightly odd aftertaste, but this is a minor detail.

M: Solid amount of carbonation and a smooth finish. This is an above average-bodied beer.

D: On the whole this is a good beer. It didn't reinvent the wheel, but it's drinkable.

 563 characters

Photo of DrDemento456
4.01/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Now that's a brown ale! Darkish brown hue with a half inch of creamy white head. Lacing is excellent sticking to the side with every sip/

S - Smell is OK not too exciting. Some slight sweetness of toasted malts and a bit of hops in the nose, very faint though.

T - Exceptional. I couldn't believe how smooth and creamy this beer was! Starts off with a bit of hops then quickly to a bit of brown malt and toasted marshmallow/caramel sweetness and finishes with a bit of bitterness.

M - Smooth and creamy.

Overall a very unexpected treat from this brewery. I have another beer by them and hopefully it's as good.

 619 characters

Photo of scruffwhor
3.01/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Picked up a six pack from Paradise bar on my vacation to Galena,IL. First time I've ever seen this beer.

Pours a nice, light beige head of over two fingers width. Great sasparilla brown with clear garnet highlights. Good, sticky lacing. Thearoma has good roasted and even faintly smoked malts. Then some very subtle coffee and shitty chocolate notes that would come from an American advent calendar. The taste is pretty bland for any brown ale. Light roasted malts, maybe a touch of coffee grounds. Very watery. The hops are the only flavor that lingers mixed with some burnt malt flavors. Would be sessionable if it had more flavor.

 635 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Hook & Ladder Backdraft Brown from Hook & Ladder Brewing Company (No. 2)
3.59 out of 5 based on 236 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.