Brown IPA was known by another name before it became an accepted style by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in 2015. Texas Brown Ale. However, the name does little but muddy the water when looking for the sub-style’s origin; which incidentally is California, not Texas. Confused yet? Well, let’s see if we can get a light in there.
Brown IPA is an interesting marriage of an American IPA and an American Brown Ale. A good example should bring the high hop flavor and bitterness of the one and merge it seamlessly with the slightly more malt rich flavors of the other, all while remaining crisp and drinkable, never verging into the territory of being heavy or sweet. Quite the mash-up. Who would invent something like this? Homebrewers of course!
The accepted origin of Brown IPA follows the same path as American Brown Ale. Scott Birdman’s story is referenced in both this 2011 Bay Area Mashers slide show and this 2012 Stone Brewing write up on their collaborative brew TBA. This same origin is also quoted in this 2009 La Petite Brasserie blog post. Scott Birdman says:
“The history of Texas Brown Ale goes back to the early 80’s when I was attending a convention in San Rafael, California. I was visiting Jay Conner & Byron Burch, owners of a homebrew shop, Great Fermentations. They had a flyer for a Purple Passion Dark Ale recipe with John Bull Dark Malt Extract, crystal & chocolate malts, and a ton of hops. This was a popular recipe with their customers and did well in local and regional homebrew competitions, but got slammed in the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) & HWBTA Nationals for not meeting the style guidelines for “Brown Ales” (assumed to be British brown ales).”
Scott Birdwell took the concept home with him to Texas where he and The Foam Rangers, the homebrewing club he belonged to, decided to make a category to fit the style in their annual Dixie Cup Homebrew Competition. They named the new category “California Dark,” paying homage to its roots back in San Rafael. The success of the California Dark category drove the (AHA) to recognize it, but the name was changed to “Texas Brown Ale.”