'Tis the Season for Brown Ales

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The Beer: Moose Drool
The Brewery: Big Sky Brewery (Missoula, Montana)
The Style: American Brown Ale
The Stats: 5.1 percent ABV, 26 IBU

The Story: Big Sky has been leading the Montana craft beer scene since its inception 21 years ago. Based in Missoula, Montana, Big Sky bottles 11 different beers while canning seven, including their flagship, Moose Drool, which is available in both formats. The brewery's beer names tend to reflect the nature of Montana — besides Moose Drool, other brew names include Scape Goat Pale Ale, Pygmy Owl IPA, and Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout.

Brown ales don't receive nearly the same amount of attention that other styles, such as IPAs, pale ales, or fruit beers, have in recent years. And while they may lack the sexiness of highly hopped, super-sour, or double-strength imperial ales, brown ales represent a tried-and-true style with a historic flavor profile. They tend to make a perfect segue between the marzen/pumpkin beer season and the coming assault of Christmas-spiced and winter-warmer-type beers. In other words, this style is the perfect choice for this time of year.

Characteristics: Aromatics of deeply toasted malt and pecan/almond nut transition seamlessly into the flavor profile. Some roasted malt aroma adds complexity but does not detract from the toasted malts, which make up the signature flavor of this style. The beer is relatively clear and deep brown in color with garnet highlights, especially when held to the light. The flavor is malt-forward, mimicking the aromatics, but because it is well attenuated the brew finishes crisp and clean.

Though clearly a malt showcase, the beer contains a moderate but noticeable hop bitterness, which provides balance and creates a lighter feel on the palate. Hop flavor is medium-low, provided from a hop schedule consisting of East Kent Goldings, Willamette, and Liberty hop varieties. These flavors sit in the background along with a slight hint of caramel malt flavor, both of which add complexity and character. A ton of flavor is present in this relatively light beer, which checks in at just 5.1 percent alcohol by volume. Moose Drool is available at virtually all craft-centric beer stores and the majority of grocery stores.

For more information about the beer or the brewery, check out the Big Sky Brewing Company website.

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