Sir William's Brown Ale Isn't The Best Beer In Town. But It's Not The Worst, Either.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week we sipped on Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's English Brown Ale.
Fast Facts on Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's English Brown Ale.
• Style: English Brown Ale.
• ABV: 4.9 percent.
• International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 21.
• Color: Dark ruby amber.
• Availability: Year-round.
There are a couple of North Texas craft breweries that, for whatever reason, seem to thrive on controversy. One of those is Deep Ellum Brewery, which has endured two separate controversies — the “Goes Down Easy” slogan kerfuffle, and, more recently, the public spat with Scotch & Sausage.
The other, seemingly, is Grapevine Craft Brewery. Many in the North Texas beer community were reasonably shocked in June, when a then relatively unknown brown ale was named the best non-seasonal beer in North Texas, beating local heavyweights like Peticolas' Velvet Hammer, Community Mosaic, Lakewood Temptress, etc. Needless to say, D Magazine's tasting panel was called into question, and rankings were mostly taken with a grain of salt by the local beer community. Unsurprisingly, a rival publication decided to take their own look at Sir William's, and had some not-so-nice things to say about the beer. That, in turn, prompted a public response from Grapevine Craft Brewery's Founder and CEO Greg Humble.
Intentional or not, they say that no press is bad press, and the extra attention no doubt resulted in a spike in Sir William's pours across the region. So, we set out to see for ourselves — is Sir William's really the best beer in North Texas?
Background on English Brown Ales.
When you talk about English Brown Ales, there are two different categories in the BJCP style guidelines — Southern English Brown and Northern English Brown. Commercially, Northern English Brown tends to be the dominant player, so we'll use that here. Expect a beer that pours clear, dark amber to reddish brown and with a medium off white to tan head. Aromas should be light, sweet malt with layers of toffee, caramel, nuts and possibly some fruity esters. Flavors should mostly mirror the aromas with moderate malt sweetness, nuts, caramel and toasted, biscuit or toffee-like malt character. They should have a medium to medium-low bitterness, which should be equally balanced with the malt sweetness.
Sir William's pours dark ruby amber, with a thick, tan head with large bubbles. The head recedes fairly quickly into the glass leaving a thin film across the top.
If you're looking for an aroma bomb of a beer, look elsewhere. What is there, though, is light, but pleasant. There's some subtle sweet malt with a bit of nutty and roasty qualities. Dig deep, and you might even detect a faint hop aroma.
Sir William's is malt-forward, but not too sweet. It's a bit nutty, with some roasted malts and slightly biscuity flavors. The medium levels of hop bitterness keeps the malts in check and provides some needed balance. The finish just kind of dies on you, which is weird and disappointing. With so much flavor upfront, one would expect it to linger just a little through the swallow, only it doesn't. It is very reminiscent of water in that regard.
Sir William's has a medium mouthfeel, with exception to the finish, which is decidedly thin, with adequate levels of carbonation for the style.
As far as the style guidelines go, Sir William's is mostly on point. There are no off flavors, and it's mostly balanced with good, layered flavors to enjoy. Where it loses me, however, is the finish. Sir William's finish is so bad, in my opinion, that it ruins what would otherwise be a quite excellent beer. That said, of Grapevine's other offerings that we have reviewed to date (
(Lakefire Rye Pale Ale, Monarch American Wheat) this is far and away my favorite. Sir William's English Brown Ale is certainly not the best beer in North Texas, but it's also not the worst. This beer falls somewhere in the middle of those extremes, which, if we're honest, is exactly where a brown ale probably should be.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Sir William's English Brown Ale a 7.
What's happening in the area brew scene? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Saturday, October 4. Cyclesomatic Bicycle Brewery Tour.
• Thursday, October 9, through Thursday, November 20. Brewhaha Comedy Tour at Various Local Breweries.
• Friday, November 7. The Inaugural NTX Beer Week Brewer's Ball at the Renaissance Hotel.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrillla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.