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The Weekly Beer Geek

Weekly Beer Review: Big Lake Brewing’s Leroy Brown

Leroy Brown – English Brown Ale
Big Lake Brewing
$3.29/Can (16 oz)
Grade: B-

The Beginning:
I’m sort of surprised this never occurred to me as a beer name begging to be made, or that I’d never seen a beer named after one cool-as-hell song: “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce. I come from a family who loves music and singing and was probably FAR too young to be exposed to a funky little tune about a violent gambler who hangs out in Chicago with a razor and hits on other men’s women until he gets carved up in a bar brawl. I’ve got friends with small kids who listen to Disney in the car at an age I was puzzling out lyrics like “All them downtown ladies called him Treetop Lover” and “Leroy learned him a mess about messin’ with the wife of a jealous man.” Oh yeah, and this beer name is an obvious pun, but it has associations with a song people like, so they buy it. Hey, it worked on me.

The Brewer’s Pitch:
Big Lake is quick to assure you that in spite of the name, Leroy Brown is not that mean (of course, given the lyrics they should be saying it’s not that “Bad,” but I digress). It’s a northern-style English brown, with caramel malts and chocolate notes. English Browns are malty and fairly light and well suited to session drinking, although Northern English browns are a bit hoppier than their southern counterparts.

The Beer:
Leroy Brown is clear ruby caramel, shot through with darker red notes and topped with a thin layer of dingy white. The nose is light but sticky sweet with grain. The mouthfeel, likewise, is very light- the beer isn’t all that dark to look at, but it’s exceptionally crisp and light on the tongue. It’s crisp and gently sweet at first, hints of rye bread and toast but nothing heavy or solid. There’s a backbone of bitterness that is reminiscent of unsweetened sun tea. The whole thing never hits the palate hard, but lingers in crisp biscuit tastes and a bitterness that keeps it crisp and clean.

The Breakdown:
This may be the single lightest brown ale I’ve ever had. It’s incredibly clean, and other than a slight tinny aftertaste about the very back of my tongue there’s not even anything reminding me I had any. If you want something full and rich it’s going to come up woefully short. However, if what you seek is something with a big of dark-malt taste and a bit of body to separate it from the pale ales and industrial lagers, this could be just what you need. It’s only a hair over 5% ABV and doesn’t clog the palate, which means it could be a great session brew for your lengthy warm afternoon of shooting dice (or the guy who messed with your wife, who am I to judge?). Still, I’m not sure that Bad Bad Leroy Brown would approve of something so casual and, frankly, delicate sharing his name.

The Bottom Line:
The brewery is called “Big Lake,” but it’s in Holland, MI – that’s on Lake MICHIGAN which, while pretty big for a lake, is sure as heck no Lake Superior. What kind of scam are you pulling, Big Lake?

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