Brown’s Brewing Company Imperial Stout

Brown's Imperial Stout
The other day I ventured into a brewpub that I really haven’t frequented much in the past few years: Brown’s Brewing Co. Between the maturation of my palate, the degradation of quality of Brown’s beers, plus a menu that has not so gracefully been balancing a thin line between pub food and upscale gastropub, Brown’s has been kind of a mess of the past few years and offered nothing worth making a visit save maybe an event or two. Even the last one of those I went to a few years ago, the Firehouse Chili Cook-Off, was a complete disaster and I hadn’t been back since.

Granted, back when I used to frequent Brown’s, it was a simpler time. I had much less respect for beer and Brown’s was a place to head after class, grab a pint, hang out on the weekends upstairs undisturbed (ya know, before they had wait service there and before they kicked you out if you weren’t ordering food). A stop at Ryan’s Wake filled with a least ten plays of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” always followed (this was before the digital jukebox days), closing time there always preceded drunkenly walking to The Ruck, and getting kicked out of there meant it was time for a couple of slices over at I Love, the best pizza EVER (when you’re shitfaced). A typical “that side of the river” HVCC Super Senior weekend excursion.

That said, things have changed greatly over the past 10+ years. Between Brown’s and Revolution Hall there have been enough owner, brewer and chef changes it’s hard to keep track of it all. And with that came several overhauls of their menus. They’ve expanded their brewing capacity, moved some (or more) of their brewing to their Walloomsac Brewery and are concentrating much more on getting their beers on the shelves on every Price Chopper in the Northeast instead of concerning themselves with the quality of their brew, which has drastically took a turn for the worse.

Or maybe they haven’t. Maybe their beer hasn’t changed. Maybe the thousands of different beers I’ve had over the years has caused me to move on and grow past Brown’s (and Davidson Brothers’ and Albany Pump Station’s, and Druthers) level of brews. Doubtful given that these breweries are the butt of so many jokes in the Capital Region craft beer community, but who knows.

A friend of mine with whom I go back and forth about the quality of Brown’s beers, cleanliness of their tap lines, etc. (just to provoke me) posted the announcement of Brown’s Imperial Stout being tapped on my Facebook wall. Given that when I started going to Brown’s (a decade ago or so) their Imperial Stout was a year round offering, I was taken aback when I saw they were making a big fucking deal out of this beer as if it was the next coming of Kate the Great. Challenge accepted.
Brown's Imperial Stout
I went into Brown’s with the lowest of expectations, and surprisingly, they were exceeded. I didn’t love this beer. But it also wasn’t the worst beer I’ve ever had, either. This was about as good as any homebrew Imperial Stout. It was really one-sided with a lot of intense bitter notes from the excess of roasted malts used in the beer, and nothing else. No chocolate, no coffee, no complexity. They somehow managed to make it have a thin mouthfeel, too, which was quite a feat given the ingredients. It was boozy as fuck, with nothing even bothering to try to hide that 10.2% ABV either. It was rough, and seemed unfinished. That said, I was able to empty my glass, so that’s saying something, right?

Brown's Brewing Fat Boy Fries

We murdered the Fat Boy Fries

After the Imperial Stout I grabbed a Brown’s standard to help wash down the rest of the Fat Boy Fries I ordered and shared with Pig Destroyer Jon and Jeff2: Whiskey Porter. When I speak of being from the Capital Region this is the one beer that pops into people’s minds most often. Brown’s is famous for this beer and I’ve even been requested to bring some up for some VT bottle shares and the like.
Brown's Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter
My first sip and there it was: disappointment. Surprisingly disappointment tastes exactly like diacetyl. Seriously, this was the most popcorn butter flavored beer I’ve ever tasted of any beer I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something considering in last year’s Extreme Homebrew Competition at The Ruck someone submitted a beer in the Funky Fermentables category that had a couple of pounds of popcorn in it. Try as I might, I was unable to finish this beer and forced Jon to finish the rest. (Sorry Jon.) I’m not sure what quality control Brown’s beer goes through, if any. How a beer like this makes it out of the brewery is beyond me.

My overall impression of Brown’s has not changed from this visit. The beer is still not worth the stop, and while I enjoyed the food we had and the tap lines weren’t actually gross for once, as bar food goes there isn’t much under the $10 range except for pretzels and potato skins. The last time we had dinner there were some $20+ dish entrees that genuinely seemed inappropriate for the venue, and while it looks like the menu has been rectified since, even if the menu improved (or, *ahem* returned to it’s brewpub roots) what’s the point of going to a brewpub that has bad beer?


Brown’s Brewing Co. (link) | 417 River St, Troy, NY (map) | All Brown’s Brewing Co. Posts

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Calvados Barrel Edition) – Mikkeller

A little bit of background here: I’m a complete weirdo when it comes to all things civet coffee, AKA Kopi Luwak, AKA (colloquially) “cat-poop coffee”. I’m kinda obsessed with it. I think the idea behind it is completely nuts and weird and strange and something most people don’t “get” or want to try which makes me love it even more.

For those of you not in the know, Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world at about $160 a pound. The reason for this is the process in which Kopi Luwak is made. They start with a variety of different coffee berries (which can lead to wildly different flavor profiles) and feed them to the Asian Palm Civet:

Photo Source: Wikipedia user TigrouMeow

The coffee berries pass through the digestive system of the civet, are pooped out, collected, washed, sun dried and then lightly roasted. The digestive system of the civet slightly breaks down the coffee yielding a less bitter brew. Sounds awesome right?

There are only a handful of breweries making beers with Kopi Luwak, including Cigar City, Jester King, Jackie O’s and obviously Mikkeller. Cigar City’s Zhukov’s Final Push wins for having the awesomest name, but is damn near impossible to get your hands on. Beer Geek Brunch is definitely the easiest to find.

OK, let’s talk about the beer: Tons of coffee, chocolate and roasted malts in the nose, with some booziness, spice and an aroma from the apple brandy barrel present.

Extremely dark brown appearance, may even be black but tough to tell in the lighting. Completely opaque with a uniform body. The small-bubbled brown head dissipated quickly.

You get hit up front with the coffee and chocolate on the taste, which is followed up with dark roasted malts and just a hint of the apple brandy barrel and some heat. The booze isn’t overpowering and blends well for the 10.9% ABV and the style.

The beer has a full, creamy, silky smooth mouthfeel that coats the tongue a bit. There’s medium carbonation and little to no warmth from the alcohol.

Overall I was pleased with my first Beer Geek Brunch experience. I feel like the Calvados Barrel could have stood out a bit more but I have a feeling that will be made up in the Cognac Barrel Edition I’m holding on to (along with an insane 19.3% ABV Black Buffalo). After I find a regular Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Nuzzy and I can do a full on Beer Geek horizontal tasting. More on that to come.

Repost for my BeerAdvocate peeps of Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout. Mind you, this is my first “real” beer review, I know nothing about doing beer reviews and I’m taking it way too seriously. Subsequent beer reviews have much more jackassery in them.