Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The acronym "TBA" can stand for a lot of things ... like "To Be Announced" or "Tertiary Butyl Alcohol."    In the case of the craft beer movement, "TBA" stands for "Texas Brown Ale."  This "style" of beer has a rather interesting lore.  The story oddly enough begins in California.  As the story goes, Californian home brewers got bored with the English Brown Ale.  They decided that they would give their own spin to the weary brown ale.  The brewers increased the use of crystal and chocolate malts, and, as Californian brewers often do, they added a lot of hops.  The result was a hoppy brown ale that clearly set itself from the malt-driven versions of the English Brown Ale.

The owner of the Houston, Texas-based Defalco Home Wine and Beer Supplies, Scott Birdwell, visited California and tried the Californian version of the brown ale.  Given the increased use of hops and the darker color, the beer could not qualify as an English Brown Ale at beer competitions.  Birdwell decided that a new category should be created and called "California Dark."  The American Homebrewers Association accepted the new category, but called it the "Texas Brown Ale."  Eventually, the style became known as the American Brown Ale. 

This particular Texas Brown Ale is the result of a collaboration between three talented brewers: the head brewers from Stone Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewery and Fat Head's Brewery & Saloon.  This TBA is no ordinary brown ale; instead, it was inspired by the time during which it was brewed ... right before Christmas.  As the label states, "[n]othing says Christmas like hanging out with good friends and brewing something special.  Thanks to Matt Cole from Fat Head's and Richard (Ricardo) Norgrove from Bear Republic for braving the pre-holiday travel to come to Stone the week before the Christmas Holiday and brew this 'sort of' old-school American (or Texas) brown ale."   

The "sort-of" nature of this Texas Brown Ale is also explained by the label.  "The recipe we came up with a host of specialty malts, molasses, brown sugar, Columbus, Bravo, Brewers' Gold and for the first time ever at Stone, Cascade hops." The label concludes, "[w]e're hoping our brew brings back fond memories of some of the earliest classic craft beers.  Enjoy your trip down memory lane." 

For me, it was Christmas in summer.  I poured the beer into a Fat Head's mug.  While the beer poured a brown sugar color, I was surprised by the thick foam from the carbonation.  As one would expect from a beer produced by Stone, Fat Heads and Bear Republic, this beer is very bold.  The use of four different hops allows the piney and citrusy flavors to assert themselves strongly in both the aroma and the flavor.  What is more remarkable about the beer is not the hops, but the sweetness from the malts, molasses and brown sugar round out the taste of this beer in a great way. 

The confluence of hops, malt and sweetness provide a little more challenge when it comes to pairing this beer.  One suggestion is barbecue, with the sweetness being a good complement to the spice or smoke in the rubs.  Another suggestion is earthy or nutty cheeses.  Both could probably work, although I have to admit that I just enjoyed the beer by itself.

Obviously, the beer was (and may still be available) in California, where Stone and Bear Republic are located, or in Ohio, where Fat Head's is located.  This bottle was a gift, so I do not know how much it cost.  Still, if you see a bottle, it is worth it.


For more about the history of the Texas Brown Ale, check out Bay Area Craft Beer and Texas Beer Freedom.

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