Best Brown Ales, ESBs, Bitters I can find on shelves?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Conz, Dec 11, 2019.

  1. Conz

    Conz Initiate (18) Jun 29, 2019 New Jersey

    I ran a search but couldn't find a thread, apologies if it's been made.

    I like a good brown ale every now and then to break the IPA/Stout/Sour monotony, and I've enjoyed every beer close to an English Special Bitter (or any of those similar "Bitter" styles) I've ever had, which has only been a few. The most recent I've had was Old Man by Tree House, but obviously that's not hanging out on NJ liquor store shelves. I genuinely enjoy that beer though. Same goes for their Brown Ale, Bear. I'm a Carton Brewing regular, and they throw a BDG at me every now and then, which I think is classified as a "table beer," but i feel like it's in the same general flavor range. Kane had a great bitter called Velvet Hand, but i think it's just a once a year release at this point.

    Ya know, I always see Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale and... not much else. What should I be looking for? I had the Founders Barrel Brown Ale the other day and it was solid, but these keep escaping me.

    Are these styles just too unpopular nowadays? Am I S.O.L? Appreciate any suggestions. Help me broaden my beer horizons.
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  2. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,669) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I was just having a conversation about brown ales this past weekend. One beer that came up was Newburgh Brown, and how I don't really see it around any more. It still seems to be in NJ, however, at least according to Beermenus, so if you're near one of those locations I'd definitely recommend it.
  3. miwestcoaster

    miwestcoaster Meyvn (1,052) Jan 19, 2013 Michigan

    Perrin Lil’ Griz Brown Ale
    New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale
    Bell’s Best Brown Ale
    Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale
  4. Conz

    Conz Initiate (18) Jun 29, 2019 New Jersey

    thanks fellas, keep em comin
  5. TheGent

    TheGent Poo-Bah (2,103) Jun 29, 2010 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    I second the Newburgh Brown Ale recommendation, but I don’t remember the last time I saw it.

    Cigar City Maduro Brown is pretty nice too.

    We’re getting Surly now so I’d keep my eyes open for Bender (Brown Ale)

    Port Brewing makes an amazing Brown Ale called Board Meeting. It’s with coffee and cocoa nibs if that’s your thing.

    Voodoo Wynona’s Big Brown Ale is also really nice.
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  6. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,669) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    If there's any overlap between brown and mild, that's where Yards Brawler resides- keep an eye out for that one, too, if you haven't had it yet.
  7. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    My favorite browns~

    Sam Smith
    Cigar City Maduro Brown
    Alesmith Nut brown
    Rogue Hazelnut brown
    Founders Mountain
    Lagunitas WTF brown

    All readily available at places like Total Wine here in the Seattle area at least
  8. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    @Conz, have you ever considered homebrewing?

    As regards the beer styles you have explicitly listed (Brown Ale, ESB, Bitter Ales) these sorts of beers are not readily available to me so I homebrew my own.

    Something for you to consider?

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  9. Conz

    Conz Initiate (18) Jun 29, 2019 New Jersey

    maybe in time.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    If you want beer styles that are not Hazy IPAs, Pastry Stouts, Imperial Stouts, AAL beers,...then making your own is indeed a good option.


    P.S. Tomorrow I will be homebrewing my annual batch of Altbier, you can't easily buy this sort of beer.
  11. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    There's a homebrewing shop both north and south of me (within 5 miles) and my wife keeps hinting like it's going to be my Christmas present from her. Keeping my fingers crossed.
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  12. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (550) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina

    Greenman ESB from Asheville
  13. thedaveofbeer

    thedaveofbeer Initiate (198) Mar 25, 2016 Massachusetts

    A time machine would be helpful.... or a plane ticket... I wish more of the craft breweries in my area would make these styles.
    thesherrybomber likes this.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Perhaps a road trip is in order?

    Yeah, being surprised by a wrapped box under the tree is real nice but....


    P.S. My wife asked what I wanted for Christmas and in a nanosecond I answered: A Three Stooges sweatshirt! :slight_smile: I have little hope that this is actually what I will be receiving. :flushed:
    bmugan and Mister_Faucher like this.
  15. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    Oh man, she books me on what I spend weekly on beer and is starting to put 2 & 2 together lmao
    RobNewton likes this.
  16. scottakelly

    scottakelly Devotee (484) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    Bell's Best Brown is a good one, though it's a fall seasonal and would be a bit old this time of year.

    For ESB, Fuller's is hard to beat. Hard to find fresh in the bottle, but excellent on draught if you can find it
  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You will indeed save money homebrewing your own beers especially if you brew expensive beers. I just tried my first bottle of a recently homebrewed batch of Belgian Dubbel. That beer was damn tasty!! If I were to purchase that batch (i.e., two cases of imported Trappist Dubbel) that would have costed me like $250. Needless to say but my costs for ingredients for my two cases of homebrewed Dubbel were waaaay less than that.

  18. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    I might have to pick your brain come new years!
  19. Jacobier10

    Jacobier10 Poo-Bah (2,174) Feb 23, 2004 New Jersey

    I bought Bell's Best Brown and Cigar City Maduro recently. Both were really good. You may want to try some Dunkels too, as they might be up your alley. Hofbräu Dunkel and Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel are great places to start.

    As for bitters, your best bets are Fuller's ESB and London Pride. Man Skirt Brewing in Hackettstown, NJ makes a nice one called Better Than Pants. You might be able to find cans depending where in NJ you live. Otherwise, try to find a tap room near you that has a bitter on tap or cask. Forest & Main in Ambler, PA makes some excellent bitters and milds if you're up for a road trip.
  20. Glider

    Glider Zealot (548) Nov 15, 2004 Massachusetts

    I have always liked a Brooklyn Brown a lot, although that might be a minority opinion. Happened across Newburgh Brown on draft and thought it was excellent, although I have never seen it in cans here. Bell’s Best Brown is one of my favorites, too bad it’s only seasonal. Smuttynose Old Brown Dog is not bad either if you see it in NJ.

    ESB is even more of a lost style these days. Devil’s Purse Surfman’s Check is good and I always see it on the shelf here, but closest distribution would be in CT.
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  21. jkblr

    jkblr Poo-Bah (2,032) Nov 22, 2014 Indiana
    Society Trader

    This was going to be my suggestion also. All these styles are getting harder and harder to find. With home brewing, you can taylor to your own preferences. In my experience, browns and bitters are good starter styles for homebrewing.

    As for shelf options, Cigar City Maduro is my favorite English style brown. I can't even recommend an ESB that would be consistently fresh and available, but I'm in the Midwest.

    Good luck!
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  22. DEdesings57

    DEdesings57 Zealot (561) Aug 26, 2012 New Jersey

    For brown ales:

    Bells Best brown Ale, Sumuttynose Old Brown Dog, Avery Ellies Brown, Samual Smith Nut Brown Ale.

    That should be enough to get you started, Cheers and cudos for talking about a underappreciated style of beer!
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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I agree with you here.
    I am on the East Coast and with the exception of some small, local breweries where the Bitter Ales are solely available for on-premise consumption I agree with you here as well. Homebrewing ensures easy availability and freshness of product.

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  24. Amendm

    Amendm Defender (639) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    Wormtown's Blizzard of 78 is out for the fall, an English Brown Ale.
    American BA Mercy Brown is another fall release, from Revival.
    Not sure if these are available in N.J. but worth a look.
    tzieser and Conz like this.
  25. mikeinportc

    mikeinportc Meyvn (1,017) Nov 4, 2015 New York

    #25 mikeinportc, Dec 11, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2019
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  26. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Poo-Bah (1,781) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    Brown Ales:

    Samuel Smith's Nut Brown
    Cigar City Maduro
    Bell's Best Brown Ale
    Avery Ellie's


    Left Hand Sawtooth
    Magic Hat Barroom Hero
  27. mikeinportc

    mikeinportc Meyvn (1,017) Nov 4, 2015 New York

    Also .. just remembered....Beast Bitter from Middle Ages.
    I haven't had it in forever , but remember liking it . Only have noticed Wit and Wailing Wench (barleywine) around here lately, so not sure if they're still putting it out there. Worth a try, if you find it , & not ancient.
  28. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Poo-Bah (1,781) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    Also, if you get Ithaca Beer Company beers in NJ, pick up their Nut Brown Ale!
    It's been one of my favorite brown ales lately.
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  29. mikeinportc

    mikeinportc Meyvn (1,017) Nov 4, 2015 New York

    Thanks for that .Had the first 3 + Fuller's, & concur. Saw Barroom Hero tonight, but passed . Maybe next time. :sunglasses:
    HorseheadsHophead likes this.
  30. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Savant (947) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Try Brooklyn Brown Ale it's sold in most NJ stores,
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  31. Warwick7

    Warwick7 Initiate (77) May 25, 2019 Maryland

    Malt forward and Golden

    Holy Grail

    I have a English Ale thread you are more then welcome to come by
    RobNewton and Conz like this.
  32. Conz

    Conz Initiate (18) Jun 29, 2019 New Jersey

    I completely forgot about Maduro, which is a beer i enjoy and see everywhere. i'm making a list of everything mention and will try to slowly but surely pick em up. thanks again

    bummer on the ESB's, but i always know someone going to Tree House, maybe I'll just get a bunch of Old Man's. "You want Green, Julius, the new Curiosities?" "Nah, just get me 12 Old Man Bitters please."
  33. shadyside

    shadyside Defender (611) Feb 27, 2011 Georgia

    I'm not a fan of brown ales, but I do like Bell's Best Brown Ale.
  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Are you near Milford, NJ. Maybe you could visit the Ship Inn? On their website they list:

    “Best Bitter: A traditional English style cask conditioned pale ale, naturally carbonated and served on our hand pump. This medium-bodied house specialty has a fruity hop finish. 5.8% abv

    ESB - Our traditional English pale ale. Toasty and fruity with a light hop finish. Extra special…but not too bitter. 5.9% abv”


    P.S. I have never been to the Ship Inn so I have not personally tasted their beers.
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  35. beerwego

    beerwego Initiate (39) Dec 5, 2019

    In my neck of the woods these are dead styles, and largely represented by the few UK brewers that import to the US.

    Fullers ESB (very good IMP)
    Fullers Vintage (excellent)
    Fullers London Pride (good)
    Timothy Taylor (excellent pale ale, but I don't see the difference between an English pale ale and bitter)
    Samuel Smith Nut Brown (people rate this one well, but I think it's crap, and SS's least desirable ale)

    My favorite US brown ales are:
    Lagunitas Wilco Foxtrot
    Bear Republic Peter Brown Tribute Ale
    Bell's Best Brown Ale
    SN Tumbler (sometimes appears in Fall mix...not sure if it did this year)
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  36. beerwego

    beerwego Initiate (39) Dec 5, 2019

    I picked up a 12-pack of Brawler cans not long ago and felt that it was not up to snuff. Been a fan of that beer for a long time and pick it up when I pass through NJ....but this twelve pack had a real flaw which tasted like an artificial sweetener
    TongoRad likes this.
  37. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,669) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Oy, hopefully that's just a blip, and it's back to it's old self soon.

    Btw, since you occasionally shop in NJ, maybe also keep an eye out for Alementary Mr. Stevens, which stakes out some very similar territory.
    Rocktire likes this.
  38. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,987) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Society Trader

    Without getting into the English vs American versions, I will second these and add Cigar City Maduro.

    You mentioned Founders Sumatra. Great beer, but not a Brown Ale. But more along those lines, Dogfish Head Indian Brown is a good American style.

    Good luck with the ESB. They seem to be few and far between. Fullers is always a good option though. It does seem like there are some more domestic English Milds floating around recently though and that might work for you.
    miwestcoaster and vabeerguy like this.
  39. bwarner2015

    bwarner2015 Initiate (74) Mar 25, 2016 Connecticut

    Look for Red Hook ESB (not sure if in NJ, but I get it here in CT). One of my all time classic favorites.. Got me into craft beer.
    Also, have you had Long Trail Harvest? seasonal, but may still be on store shelves.
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  40. Ranbot

    Ranbot Savant (901) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    ditto, ditto
    Long Trail Harvest is a English brown ale that may also pass as a dark mild here in the US where options in this style are few. It's a good beer.

    Shipyard Old Thumper ESB is good too