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Unsung subtleties


Ah, the humble, unheralded brown ale -- a beer style that is as decidedly unsexy as it is inoffensive. No one busts out the brown ale to wow the beer share crowd. If brown ale were a person, he would be an accountant at a regional HR firm named Phillip, not Phil, whose life highlight was a semester playing trombone in a third-wave ska band during his sophomore year at UB.

But like Phillip, there's virtue in the brown ale's simplicity. It is a nuanced style rife with pleasantly roasty subtleties, and Paul Guarracini at Sager Beer Works is a veritable master of this unsung English ale. On Saturday, February 1, Sager and Manchester's Reinvention Brewing Company unveiled a very special brown ale, one of 20 special collaborations released exclusively for The Beer Market.

Collab AF is a month-long celebration of collaborations between the Mount Hope-based craft beer bar and other local breweries; it features 33 other, four-state spanning brewery collaborations on top of the Beer Market releases. Putting the event together has had Beer Market Beer Guru Rob Richenberg (yes, official title), running frantically from brewery to brewery.

"This started as just a way to set us apart, but it turned into a way to show some more interesting combinations of things," Richenberg says.

Collaborations are the life-blood of the craft beer community, in the sense that they give brewers the opportunity to play to their strengths while giving ample room to experiment.

"With beer, everybody's friendly with each other, you'll always see brewers hanging out and drinking," Richenberg says.

Sager and Reinvention's Brown Ale is a conservative pastry twist on the classic, meant to give a subtle hint of oatmeal cookie. A balanced, lightly roasted and slightly sweet malt backbone is complemented by some tinges of cinnamon and nutmeg, finishing crisp and clean. In a world where pastry beers seek to beat the drinker senseless with hearty doses of candy and lactose sweetness, it's a refreshing, reserved twist on the trend.

It, of course, may not be a beer you'll find flooding your Instagram timeline, and that's okay. From much personal experience, sometimes it's fun to be uncool.

The full Collab AF tap list can be found at

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected].