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Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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Beer Here: D.T.B. Brown Ale from Pearl Street Brewery

Credit:Robin Shepard

Pearl Street Brewery is a southwest Wisconsin brewer that doesn't always receive the fanfare given to other regional beer producers. Some may be surprised to learn the brewery has been around for more than 13 years, and over the last few has stepped up its distribution in Madison. The brewery's best seller, D.T.B., is a brown ale that deserves a little attention.

What is it? D.T.B. Brown Ale by Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Style: D.T.B. is an American Brown Ale. The style, as the name suggests, is deep copper to brown in color. The brown is balanced, with a slight emphasis on maltiness. Roastedness, alongside the caramel and chocolate malt, is evident, but the maltiness is not overbearing, sticky or too sweet. Likewise, the hoppy-bitterness is low to medium in flavor and aroma. The American Brown Ale ranges from 4% to 6.5% ABV.

The brown ale has origins in 17th century England, where it was a name given to a dark-colored, mild ale. The American Brown is a style that home brewers have helped define over the past 30 years. The contemporary American Brown is flavorful, balanced and medium bodied, with more overall character than its early English cousins. American versions are also made with a majority of U.S.-grown barley and hops.

Background: D.T.B. is often called "Downtown Brown" by fans who go back to when Pearl Street got its start in 1999. However, because Pearl Street doesn't own rights to the name "Downtown Brown" -- a California-based brewery copyrighted the name and even threatened a lawsuit over its use -- the beer "officially" goes by the name D.T.B.

The brew is made with seven different malts and Pearle Hops. It's a beer that brewmaster and co-owner Joe Katchever initially created while homebrewing, and he's made it commercially since opening his brewery in 1999.

Until 2007, Pearl Street operated out of Bodega Brew Pub, a popular beer hangout in downtown La Crosse, where it was only available on tap. The brewery subsequently moved several blocks north to a larger location in the old La Crosse Footwear building, where it was able to increase production and install a bottling line. That's when Pearl Street ran into problems over the name; the name "Downtown Brown" appeared on bottle labels for the first time and achieved wider distribution, drawing unwanted attention from another brewery using the same name.

D.T.B. takes about three weeks to brew and it finishes at 5.5% ABV. It's readily available in Madison-area stores, and it sells for about $9/six-pack. D.T.B. received a gold medal in the World Beer Championships in 2003.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: A light malty nose.
  • Appearance: Clear, brown-to-bronze color with a marbled tan head.
  • Texture: Medium bodied and round. After warming up a few degrees the smooth flavor and creamy mouthfeel become more evident.
  • Taste: Balanced, with hints of caramel and chocolate malts.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: Overall clean. However, there is a faint earthy-nuttiness that grows when enjoying an entire 12-ounce bottle.

Glassware: The heavy glass mug or stein is nicely suited to the brown ale. The thick glass of the stein allows the beer to slowly warm to room temperature. This is a beer to serve a little warmer, between room and refrigerator temperatures, to bring out those malty tones.

Pairs well with: D.T.B. goes well with stews, roasted meats ranging from beef to chicken, and mildly smoked seafood. I recently discovered Capriko Cheese from the Nordic Creamery in Westby, and really enjoy the way its smooth, sweet and nutty flavors blend with the beer.

Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)

The Consensus: 81 (good) at BeerAdvocate and 41/31 (overall/style) at RateBeer.

The Verdict: D.T.B. looks heavier than it is because of it rich brown color. This is really a nicely balanced beer in malt-sweetness to hop-bitterness, and its overall body is clean enough to match with many foods. It even has sessionable qualities for those just looking for a solid brown ale to enjoy on its own.

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