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Brown in the Valley

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By Steven Tincher

January 3, 2017 – It’s winter in the Sacramento valley. The sky is gray and much of the land is brown, especially as there has been little rain.

There’s something else brown and that is brown beer in some of the many small breweries which seem to be appearing everywhere. Brown beer stems from an English brewing tradition the most famous of which is probably Newcastle Brown ale from Newcastle upon Tyne in the northeast of England. The fun comes from the creative opportunities brewmasters find with this style of brewing. Round flavors, often with a smooth, malty finish these suds often feature subtle, nut flavors and tend to be low IBU’s (International Bitterness Units.)

The samples discussed here are from a random selection and are certainly not the only beers manufactured but all are produced in house, which means it is always tempting to sample, and therefore comment, on other specialties of the house. As always there is no guarantee these craft beers will still be available by the time this article is published.

Lodi Beer Company

Located in a nicely refurbished downtown, this attractive venue offers a full service restaurant as well as very clean craft beers. They describe their School Street Brown as, “An English ale of caramel and toasted malt” (5.1% ABV.) Round and comfortable this “clean” brown can be consumed as a “session beer,” meaning that by having a lower alcohol content (by the standards of craft beers) it can be consumed in greater quantity. A lovely bevi for a cold, winter’s day.

Lodi Beer Company’s Plowshear (sic) Porter (6.1% ABV) was also sampled and warms the cockles of the heart. An excellent porter with hints of coffee and chocolate but heavy. This is more a sipping beer than a guzzling beer.

Lodi Beer Company doesn’t specify IBU’s for their beers.

Sutter Buttes Brewing Company

A simple billboard on CA Highway 99 as it enters Yuba City attracts the eye. Located in a revised, older section of town is a brewery/restaurant with an eclectic selection of beers. Annie’s Almond Brown (5.5% ABV/20 IBU) doesn’t taste strongly of almonds as its name would imply, but does have hints of coffee. A satisfying brew which complements nicely their well-prepared menu including always welcome sweet potato fries.

Another fascinating but dangerously strong beer at Sutter Buttes is Quad (11% ABV/20 IBU), This is heavy porter with strong notes of Port wine. In preparation the prudent consumer might start with their Floodwater (4.5% ABV/33 IBU), a pleasant session beer.


ABV is “Alcohol by Volume” where a “light beer” is in the range of 2.5% - 3.5%. IBU’s are International Bitterness Units where a typical IPA might rate 40 – 50.

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