If you look closely behind the bar or around the brew house of your favorite beer maker, you might see a few plaques or medals for award-winning brews. There are a handful of commercial brewery competitions, and one of the most prestigious is the World Beer Cup, held every two years in conjunction with the Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference. Not all brewers enter because of timing and expense.
The World Beer Cup is an international competition in which 90-some beer styles are judged and winners are chosen for gold, silver and bronze awards. If the judges feel there is no beer worthy in a category, they don't give an award. This year, 3,330 beers were submitted from over 600 breweries in 44 countries and 47 states. The 2010 awards were announced April 10.
The Grumpy Troll brewpub in Mount Horeb brought home two medals. Brewmaster Mark Duchow's Spetsnaz Stout captured a bronze, and Rye Bob, a beer named after his late father, received a silver. A few days ago, those two award-winning beers alone seemed worthy of a trip to Mount Horeb. However, once I arrived, I ended up spending the afternoon with another of Duchow's beers, named "Downtown Brown."
What is it? Downtown Brown from Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery of Mount Horeb.
Style: Downtown Brown is considered an English brown ale. The style ranges in color from deep copper to brown, with a medium body. Expect some dry to sweet maltiness, with roasted tones in the flavor profile and finish. The English version gives more emphasis to the malt, while American versions have a bit more hoppy aroma and flavor. The English Brown Ale has an alcohol range from 4% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Mark Duchow makes his Downtown Brown with a combination of six-row, Munich and Breiss-roasted malts. He adds imported Styrain Gold and U.S. Fuggel hops. Downtown Brown usually makes its annual appearance at the Grumpy Troll in March and stays on tap into the fall. Its alcohol content is 6.5% ABV with 30 IBUs, and it sells for $4.25/pint or $15/growler (refill).
You might also mark your calendar for visiting the Grumpy Troll beginning in May, when Duchow plans to offer a series of fruit beers. The first will be a raspberry, followed by a cherry and then a peach. Expect them to be served in snifters. Following those, Duchow says he's planning a few sour beers. One is based on his stein beer, which was aged in oak for over a year and a half.
- Aroma: A firm but light to mild maltiness.
- Appearance: Hazy, brownish-bronze color, with a medium marbled and off-white head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and round.
- Taste: A firm caramel maltiness with a hint of a grainy or earthiness. All that gets accented by a light roasted backbone to the flavor profile.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A light malty ending with some hoppiness.
Glassware: The Grumpy Troll serves this beer in a common bar pint. If you take it home in a growler, drinking it from a heavy glass mug will focus attention on the beer's brownish color and allow the marbled head to expand.
Pairs well with: Downtown Brown has a level of maltiness that goes well with many entrees, especially those on the lunch menu. The beer's earthy flavor, which includes a light roasted quality, will blend well with the brewpub's marinated and grilled portobello mushroom burger.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Downtown Brown is a well-done brown ale, especially for its versatility alongside food. While there's hoppiness in the finish, there is not so much as to overwhelm, leaving a beer with a nice balance. It's a great choice as a meal companion. At 6.5% ABV, the level of alcohol might be a bit high to call it a session beer that can be sipped all night. However, its flavor and mild-mannered character seem to say otherwise. I had one before and another during my meal. The enticing malty and roasted tones really tempted me to order another, so I settled for a take-home growler.