Beer Of The Week: Black Tooth Brewing's Saddle Bronc Is Simply A Damn Good Brown Ale

A great beer is even better if it has a great story, right? Good, because my introduction to Sheridan, Wyoming's Black Tooth Brewing was one for the books.

This Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I were driving to Denver from our home in Missoula, Montana, a 12-plus-hour drive in perfect weather. The weather we had was far from perfect: Snow started about 20 minutes into our drive, and thickened into an impenetrable white sheet by the time we got anywhere near Bozeman. The sun had set, and we'd hardly see another car from miles after crossing the Continental Divide. With the snow so thick on the roads, we were essentially guessing at where the lanes were, using the reflectors as guideposts. Even going 20 miles per hour, it was harrowing stuff. But it's southern Montana—once you pass Billings, there's no place to stop.

Knuckles sore from gripping the wheel or just clenching our fists, we finally skidded into Sheridan, Wyoming in the midst of a real blizzard. Hungry, exhausted, and bedraggled, we staggered from our motel to Black Tooth Brewing's taproom in search of beer, any beer really, to take the edge off. I thought it might just have been the cold and our state of mind, but the brewery's malt-forward beers blew me away. First, I tried the brewery's anniversary beer, a strong ale called 1314. Luscious and rich, it tasted like the best liquid French toast. But where I really settled for the night was with Saddle Bronc, the brewery's flagship, straight-up brown ale. I couldn't get enough of its nutty-sweet malts and easy-drinking, just-light-enough texture.

Fast-forward to weeks and months later, and I had to wonder: Was Saddle Bronc really that good, or was I just so thankful to be off the roads with a cold pint in my hand? Having reappraised this beer from the comforts of my own kitchen, I'm thrilled to report it's really that good. And since we're all celebrating Flagship February (you are, right?), it felt like an appropriate time to sing the praises of well constructed, straight-shooting flagship brown ale.

While it pours a deep mahogany color with a khaki-colored, moussey brown head, this beer is easier-drinking than some might anticipate. The nose is malt-dominant, as you'd expect from the style, offering up medium-high caramel, hazelnut, and dinner-roll bready aromas. Hops are there in a supporting role, adding just a touch of arboreal earthiness. The sip starts with those same caramel malts, with a creamy almond impression in the middle that dries out to a toasty, lightly cocoa finish. There's nothing sticky, brown sugar or heavy about the flavors or texture, despite the considerable malt focus. (More brown ales like this, please?) As for pairing notes, I think this beer would excellently accompany burgers, grilled chicken wings, and digging your car out from under two inches of ice—spoken from experience.

Where to get it

Black Tooth Brewing's Saddle Bronc is available year-round on draft and in six-packs of cans across Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and western Nebraska.

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