A little while ago, Clown Shoes wrote a blog post that the brewery’s Brown Angel—a brown ale—was going to retire. That actually wasn’t quite accurate. Think of the brewery’s labels like an on-going comic book. The characters reprise roles in other series (beers), or take on a new persona in a new beer. The latter is the case here. Brown Angel is still around, but she has taken on a new role in a coffee shop as The Barista Breakfast Brown Ale.
From the bomber’s label:
A Clown Shoes legend, Brown Angel, put away her dancing shoes to focus on extracting espresso, brewing coffee, and pouring latte art with zen-like focus. The Barista Breakfast Brown is crafted with Maris Otter malt, flaked oatmeal, cold brewed espresso, milk sugars, and the spirit of angel wings.
Clown Shoes tapped fellow New-England-based craft imbibery Barrington Coffee Company for the coffee component. And, I have to say, the Barrington folks selected a very unique choice for their contribution—their India Kalledevarupura Estate.
This super smooth cup is basked in classic Indian character. It is grown in the Western Ghat mountains by the Shankar family who owns and stewards this land. Their complex approach to poly-culture farming includes providing a dense shade canopy of silver oak, jack fruit and fig with companion planting in the understory of vanilla, cardamom, and pepper vines. The orchard is home to a broad diversity of fauna including Jungle Pigeon, owl, deer, fox, and wild boar.
The farm dates back to 1865 when it was first established by the British. In 1950, the farm changed hands to the Shankar family and, in turn, has undergone several changes regarding the coffee varieties planted there. The S795 variety is now the primary cultivar. S795 was created in the 1940’s by crossing two older Indian varieties—Kents and S288.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Barista Breakfast Brown Ale, from Clown Shoes Beer, in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Karnataka, India
farm: Kalledevarapura Estate
producer: Shankar Family
elevation: 1150 – 1340 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
style: Brown Ale
alcohol by volume: 8%
international bitterness units: 60
color: Dark Brown
ingredients: Coffee, Lactose, Maris Otter Malt, Flaked Oatmeal, East Kent Goldings, Amarillo Hops, Columbus Hops
Upon pouring the Barista Brekfast Brown Ale into my tulip, I see that the beer features a deep reddish brown color with a dense, fluffy, 2-finger thick, khaki head with good retention that pretty quickly reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings around the glass. With its color and translucency, it’s pretty cola-like.
Very pleasant and sweet aromas of caramel, brown sugar, coffee, brown bread, toasted oats, toasted nuts, light vanilla/cream, dark berries, and a bit of an earthiness and cedar. Just gauging what’s going on in the aroma, I think I’m in for a unique sipping experience with this beer.
Taking my first few sips, the taste definitely follows the nose; which is really something because there was an awful lot going on in the aroma. It has a tremendous complexity (not unlike its aroma) and features a light-medium body with a creamy, moderately carbonated mouthfeel. This is a very sweet beer—surprisingly so, considering the coffee component hails from India (which is typically known for coffees that are earthy, savory, and musty)—and it features massive and defined flavors of caramel, cane sugar, vanilla cream, and sweet brown bead right out of the gate. I’m even tasting a moderately sweet spiciness—cinnamon and nutmeg—that, coupled with the bread and some dark fruit notes, makes for a flavor not unlike cinnamon raisin bagel. What I’m really enjoying about this beer, particularly as it warms, is that the coffee element is acting as a complement to the beer’s flavors and it’s not just a generic coffee-flavored bitterness—the coffee component was a thoughtful and deliberate choice that enhances the beer’s overall profile.
Medium body; creamy mouthfeel; carbonic acidity; clean finish.
I’ve had a few offerings from Clown Shoes over the past couple years (I even talked about one of them on the Few Brews podcast!) and each one has been very unique and very tasty. I never got around to tasting the Brown Angel brown ale base when it was still in production, but its coffee variant—The Barista Breakfast Brown Ale—is, I’m assuming, just as heavenly as its predecessor (if not more so).
As a coffee lover, primarily, one thing I really enjoyed about this beer was that the coffee element acted as a complement to the beer’s flavors and it’s not just a bitter, generic coffee-flavored ingredient. The coffee that Clown Shoes used was a thoughtful and deliberate choice that enhanced the beer’s overall profile. And what a wonderfully unique, complex, and sweet ale this is.
Despite its complexities, however, this beer will appeal to a lot of people; and its accessibility might be its greatest selling point.
*content courtesy of Barrington Coffee Company
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.