I always have problems when it comes to judging my own beer, once it's finally ready to drink. It's obviously impossible to be completely impartial, knowing the recipe, procedure, problems that may have occurred while brewing, etc. But I also find it difficult to not be TOO harsh; I'm always looking for any little indication on infection, fermentation problems, and a lot of other things that may arise when brewing.
On top of all that, forming an opinion on a beer style that is not available commercially to me is even harder. Southern English Brown is a style that has all but faded away outside of England. It's probably more available now than it has been in awhile, thanks to homebrewers giving the style a go, but commercially-speaking, there are very few brands out there (according to the BJCP). Sure, you can read lots about what a good SEB should taste/smell like, but I really wish I had a tried-and-true version to compare my own attempts to.
With this beer, I had made some changes to the first recipe I brewed in 2010. With an OG at the lower end of the style range, and a FG at the HIGH end (at 1.014, it came in several points above target), the beer ended up with a scant 2.6% ABV. You don't get much more sessionable than that! Unfortunately, despite the high FG, large percentage of specialty malts (35%) and high mash temp (155 F), the beer tastes slightly thin to me. However, maybe a low-carbonated, 2.6%-beer isn't SUPPOSED to be THAT full-bodied. Either way, this beer is pretty flavorful, and does make a nice alternative to high-alcohol beers... when needed. I still have one of my first SEB attempts around... I'll try to do a comparison sometime soon, to see just how different they are.
Appearance: Poured with a small, light-tan head that fades to a thin film on the beer. Body is dark brown, with excellent clarity.
Aroma: Malty-sweet aroma, lots of caramel, toffee, and chocolate. No hop aroma.
Taste: Very sweet and caremelly, but there’s a roast presence there that does not belong in this style of beer. I suspect that my LHBS's idea of Amber malt does not match mine, based on the color of the grain. Low bitterness in the finish.
Mouthfeel: Quite light-bodied, with low carbonation. Definitely too thin for this style of beer.
Overall: Very sessionable, and I enjoy the character from all of the specialty malts. BUT, the bit of roastiness isn’t appropriate, and the mouthfeel needs to be heavier. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure what went wrong in that department. Also difficult to tell what the no-sparge method added to all this, if anything.