A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Ron Pattinson -

I notice that Tom Paine Original Brown Ale isn't on the list of Harvey's standard bottled beers:


Do you think that it's brewed just for North America?

If so, what do you think of beers not being available in their home country? Which of their traditional beers do you think it most resembles?

Alan -

I have very limited experience with Harvey, Ron, but I thought I noticed that, too. This trip to the small shop in Maine is the only time I have seen the Tom Paine line. It is not in the shops I go to in central New York. I see from this cached review that I found through Google that it was on discount for that reviewer so maybe it is a discontinued line as opposed to just an export one. That being said, ratebeer has new full priced reviews but only from North America.

Ron Pattinson -

It's not amongst the beers listed for Harvey's in the Good Beer Guide 2006.

I wonder when it was first brewed?

Alan -

This may go some way to explain things:<blockquote class="smalltext">This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification<p>

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:<p>


Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 9): 553 5.3.0 <info@harveys.org.uk>... No such user here<p>

----- Original message -----<p>

Received: by with SMTP id j19mr39226qbo;<p>
Fri, 12 May 2006 11:52:29 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by with HTTP; Fri, 12 May 2006 11:52:29 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <228e3b430605121152k7c4470bbjb6aa5c5541906fad@mail.gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 14:52:29 -0400
From: "Alan McLeod" <beerblog@gmail.com>
To: info@harveys.org.uk
Subject: Tom Paine Brown...

Ron Pattinson -

You'll have more luck with this email address:


Harveys have a large range of bottled beers, mostly pretty traditional:

Blue Label Alcohol 3.6% vol. (Pale Ale)
India Pale Ale Alcohol 3.2% vol.
Armada Ale Alcohol 4.5% vol.
Kiss Ale Alcohol 4.5% vol.
Copperwheat Alcohol 4.8% vol.
Tom Paine Alcohol 5.5% vol. (Strong Pale Ale)
South Down Harvest Alcohol 5.0% vol.
Bonfire Boy Alcohol 5.8% vol. (Strong Amber Ale)
Old Ale Alcohol 3.6% vol.
Nut Brown Ale Alcohol 3.0% vol.
Porter Alcohol 4.8% vol.
Sweet Sussex Alcohol 2.8% vol. (Sweet Stout)
Elizabethan Ale Alcohol 8.1% vol. (Barley Wine)
Christmas Ale Alcohol 8.1% vol. (Strong Dark Ale)
Imperial Russian Stout 2000 Alcohol 9.0% vol.

There are few UK breweries that still brew such a full set of bottled styles.

You'll nore that there is a Brown Ale in this list (and the Old Ale used to be called No.1 Brown Ale). I wonder what relationship the Tom Paine Original Brown Ale has to these?

Ron Pattinson -

This what the brewery told me:

"Dear Mr Pattinson,

Many apologies for the misunderstanding. The shop only sells the Tom Paine Pale Ale. The Tom Paine Original Brown Ale is only available in the US. The contact we have in America is a company called Elite Brands whose email address is coy@concentric.net

I do hope this is of some use to you.

Kind regards,

Tony Buxton
Shop Manager"

So Tom Paine Original Brown Ale IS only available in the USA. So does that make it an American or English Brown Ale?

Alan -

Is that whutchamacallit Scotch Silly from Belgium a Scots beer or a Belgian? Likely a Belgian beer in a Scots style. Tom Paine Brown is definitely a southern English Brown for me as a US brown is too hoppy for that style.

Ron Pattinson -

I meant English rather than English-style.

You say you consider Tom Paine Original Brown Ale to be a southern English Brown Ale in style. Which characteristics identify it as such? How would you define the style?

Obviously, not hoppy, as then it would be in the American style.

Alan -

I would divide my experience of English browns between Samuel Smith's and Newcastle to the north and others to the south. For lack of a better distinction northerns are tangy while southerns are luscious. This style barrier will be open to lots of challenge but if there are two sorts that would be them. Southersn are quaffable which traditional Scots ales, though malty, really are not due to the smokey and raosty notes. I think I am copying someone else's description in saying all this but I can't recall who.

Ron Pattinson -

I´ve never come across a traditional southern Brown Ale that was much more than 3%. Harvey´s Nut Brown Ale (3%) and Mann´s Brown Ale (2.8%) are pretty typical of the Brown Ales made in the 20th century. Both are similar to southern milds (very dark, a bit roasty), but even sweeter.

How well do you think Tom Paine Original Brown Ale fits that profile?

Alan -

Really well as it has all the qualities of those ones but bigger, too. There is that famous venerable mild whose name escapes me that is in the mid-5% range. I have never had but it would be an interesting comparitor. Again, the downfall may be with the categorization by style as "mild" and "brown" in practice never entirely abided by the styles later fixed by the homebrewers of America though many did.

Ron Pattinson -

I´ve drunk around 150 different milds (probably more than are still brewed). It was my favourite style when I began drinking. I can only think of two southern milds that were outside the usual profile:

- Gales Festival Mild (originally a one-off for a beer festival) which is significantly stronger and less sweet.

- Courage Plymouth Heavy (discontinued in the late 1970´s or early 1980´s) which was much drier and very roasty.

I´m excluding light milds, of course, which are totally different.

Personally, I always preferred the less sweet and hoppier northern and midlands milds.

Which is your favourite mild?

Alan -

Sadly, we never get milds around here in North America. My favorite is the one I used to brew for myself - in that 3.2% range. You have me wracking my brain for that other strong mild. It has a woman's name I recall. That is the trouble with not being near one's beer books.<p>So, then, what do you call a stronger brown that is luscious rather than hoppy or tart? Maybe these are Imperial milds? ;-)

Alan -

Found it - Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild. It is 6%.

Ron Pattinson -

"what do you call a stronger brown that is luscious rather than hoppy or tart?"
- A southern-style Old Ale. Harvey's XXXX Old Ale is a good example.

As the older independent breweries have gradually fallen by the wayside, many beers in this style have disappeared - King & Barnes XXXX Old Ale (4.5%), Brakspear's XXXX Old.

Whereas Old Ales are usually in the 1060-1080 range in the North, southern ones are more likely to be 1045-1055.

Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild is a recreation of a Victorian mild. It doesn't really fit in with the modern style. With an OG of 1058, it would only have counted as an XX Mild in the 1890's. Modern Milds are at about the strength of 19th century Table Beers.

Have you ever tried a traditional cask-conditioned mild? There is a lot of variation in flavour. Not all of it from the recipe. Distinctive yeast strains, fermentation methods (i.e. Yorkshire squares), serving method (flat or with a creamy head) all play a part.

Alan -

I do not think there is a good transfer from old ale to strong milds as that tang is not there. I would accept the stylistic neighbourliness of the northern brown and old ales and their relative the stock ale. But it is that fresh gushiness of quaffability that the southern has that sets it apart and makes it the neighbour of the mild to my mind.<p>As I said above, real mild is a very rare beast around here but I think I did have one at C'est What in early 2005. But that one said it was a nitro push. So the only one would have been the milds I brewed from 2000 to 2003. With the advent this fall of Chateau Good Beer Blog I may get back into it.

Ron Pattinson -

I base my observations on having drunk several examples of each of the syles I mention. To my palate, Harveys XXXX Old Ale tastes exactly like a scaled up version of their XX Mild. They probably party gyle them, anyway. It's pretty common practice in traditional ale breweries. I've had other pairs of Old and Milds that struck me the same way, though not all of them still exist.

The southern, weak Old Ales I mentioned are not aged. They have no aged flavour. If anything, in cask form they're likely to be too young, as most pubs don't take into account the longer conditioning time need for stronger beers. A mild or standard bitter of less than 1040 is pretty much in condition by the time it's dropped bright. As most cask beer falls in this category, landlords tend to assume a beer is ready as soon as it's clear. In any case, you can't really age a lightly-hopped beer of under 5% ABV for any length of time.

It's really Northeastern Brown Ale, as it isn't brewed in most of the North - just in North Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland. I agree it probaly has more in common with Old Ale than Mild - ageing and blending play a role in brewing both.

Northeastern Brown Ales aren't so much a different substyle as a different style altogether. I was born in Newcastle, so I know what I'm talking about. My dad was already drinking by the time the first batch of Newcastle Brown was brewed. Or should I be calling it Gateshead Brown?

Alan -

Nukie Bruun, wouldn't you? So what is an Old Ale that is not elderly? That would be a non-stocked old but that sounds like a double negative.

Ron Pattinson -

This is a good example of party gyling in a traditional brewery:


Formerly called BB or John Arkell Bitter, this is our lighter beer, described as "Fine quaffable session bitter" in the 'Real Ale Drinker's Almanac'. Made from 92% pale malt, 6% crystal malt and 2% sugar, it has a light, hoppy aroma and is a thirst-quenching beer with a slightly tart taste and a dry hop finish. 2B is a low gravity drinking beer which is nevertheless full of flavour. It has been brewed constantly since the early 1900s and was Arkell's most popular brew until it was overtaken by 3B in the 1970s. 2B is also available in bottles when it is known simply as Light Ale.

ABV: 3.2%


Arkell's Best Bitter Beer, as it was originally known, was first brewed in 1910 and has been affectionately known as BBB or 3B by customers ever since. (One Swindon landlord will tell you that 'BBB' stands for "Big Boy's Beer").

Today, 3B is renowned by Britain's beer lovers as a superb, amber brew with a very distinctive taste and a sweet scent of malt beneath the hops. Pale malt makes up 88% of the dry ingredients along with 10% crystal malt and 2% sugar. According to the 'Real Ale Drinker's Almanac', 3B has "delicate, beautifully balanced malt and hop with lingering dry finish and hint of nut".

ABV: 4%

Kingsdown Ale

Kingsdown Ale is the strongest of our regular beers but is a brother to 3B as it comes from the same mash. It retains a strong character of its own, however, with its rich colour, ripe fruit 'nose' and that traditional Arkell's hopiness. You can taste the malt too, along with a bitter-sweet finish and fruit notes. 'Kingsdown', which is named after the area of Upper Stratton where the brewery is situated, was originally brewed as a special beer to commemorate Swindon Town Football Club's League Cup triumph in 1969 and went into regular production in 1976.

ABV: 5%"

The bit that tells you this is "is a brother to 3B as it comes from the same mash".

I used to live in Swindon and regularly drank Arkells 3B. A very good malty, biteeresweet bitter, in the Southwestern style. Arkells 2B (or BB) is a typical light Southwestern "Boy's Bitter", a style reduced to just a few examples. Michael Jackson has likened it to Light Mild. Note as well the use of the term Light Ale for its bottled form. You rarely see it used anymore. Yet it was one of the most common bottled beers when I first drank in pubs, back in the 1970's.

Ron Pattinson -

>So what is an Old Ale that is not elderly?<

Something that's had another name put on it. Like an IPA that's 3.6% alcohol. Or a stout that's less than 4%. Blame two world wars. I could give you the figures, but I doubt you're that interested.;-)

Alan -

I am always interested! But it does really go to recognizing that style is not only morphed through time but has become little more than branding. I now have in the stash seven different new-to-me bottles that I have not tried yet each with the word "porter" on it. I suspect I will be more confused at the outset than the ending. That is the nice thing about the word "imperial" as you know there is little room to get beyond so at least that much of the style is fixed.

Ron Pattinson -

No, it's not branding in the modern sense in the case of the beers I'm talking about. More a weird distortion of the pretty logical and straightforward Victorian system by the extraordinary pressures of world war, shortage of materials, government restrictions, punitive taxation and economic depression. To name but a few. Many of these beers have been brewed for a hundred years or more.

What's impressive, is that despite all the difficulties British breweries managed to maintain a reasonable standard of, albeit quite weak, beer all the way through both World Wars. Brian Glover mentions this in "Brewing for Victory".

>That is the nice thing about the word "imperial" as you know there is little room to get beyond so at least that much of the style is fixed.<

Does "Imperial" mean something that specific to you?

Alan -

US craft brewers are using it for any style that hits around 10-11%.

Ron Pattinson -

Imperial is an odd term to use in a republic. Wouldn't presidential be more appropriate?

Alan -

There must be a better one than <i>imperial</i> - but it might depend on or reveal your politics. Maybe <i>constitutional</i> to even get above the fray of the division of powers <i>presidential</i> implies...would there ever be <i>legislative</i> stout or <i>judicial</i> pale ale?

Ron Pattinson -

Well the universities (Oxford and Cambridge) used to brew Audit Ale.

10-11% eh? Where does that leave Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout at only 7%? And how strong are Imperial Pilsners like Abita Select Imperial Pilsner? Or Anglo Dutch Imperial Pale Ale at only 5%?

Most of the non-IPA´s and non-Stouts (Imperial Red Ales, Imperial Harvest Ales, etc.) amongst the Imperials seem to come in more at 8-9%. Is there a difference depending on the base style?

Alan -

There really is no logic to it so much as it is the strongest thing the particular brewer brews as far as I can tell. Not really much difference than the late 90s fad for calling anything "extreme".