27A. Historical Beer: London Brown Ale

Overall Impression

A luscious, sweet, malty, low-alcohol dark brown ale, with caramel and toffee malt complexity and a sweet-tasting finish.


Medium to very dark brown color, but can be almost black. Nearly opaque, although should be relatively clear if visible. Low to moderate off-white to tan head.


Moderate malty-sweet aroma, often with a rich, caramel, or toffee-like character. Low to medium fruity esters, often dark fruit like plums. Very low earthy or floral hop aroma optional.


Deep, caramel or toffee sweet malty flavor on the palate, lasting into the finish, often with hints of biscuit and coffee. Some dark fruit esters can be present; relatively clean fermentation profile for an English ale. Low bitterness. Low earthy or floral hop flavor optional, but rare. Moderately-low roasty or bitter black malt flavor optional. Moderately sweet finish with a smooth, malty aftertaste. May have a sugary-sweet flavor.


Medium body, but the residual sweetness may give a heavier impression. Medium-low to medium carbonation. Quite creamy and smooth in texture, particularly for its gravity.


Increasingly rare; Mann’s has over 90% market share in Britain, but in a vanishingly small segment. Always bottled. Frequently used as a sweet mixer with cask mild and bitter in pubs. Commercial versions can be pasteurized and back-sweetened, which gives more of a sugary-sweet flavor.


Developed by Mann’s as a bottled product in 1902. Claimed at the time to be “the sweetest beer in London.” Pre-WWI versions were around 5% ABV, but same general balance. Declined in popularity in second half of 20th century, and now nearly extinct.

Characteristic Ingredients

English pale ale malt as a base with a large proportion of darker caramel malts and often some black and wheat malts (this is Mann’s traditional grist – others can rely on dark sugars for color and flavor). Moderate to high carbonate water. English hops. Post-fermentation sweetening with lactose or artificial sweeteners, or sucrose, if pasteurized.

Style Comparison

May seem somewhat like a less roasty version of a Sweet Stout (and lower-gravity, at least for US sweet stout examples) or a sweet version of a Dark Mild.

Vital Statistics


15 - 20


22 - 35


1.033 - 1.038


1.012 - 1.015


2.8% - 3.6%

Commercial Examples

Harveys Bloomsbury Brown Ale, Mann's Brown Ale.