An American classic is actually an import. I am not talking about Chevrolet (Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland). I am talking about the American nut brown ale that was popular after repeal of Prohibition.

The history of the American version of nut brown ale is cloudy. One of the earliest references to this brew is an 1853 advertisement for a “pale, brown and amber ale and porter” from John McKnight’s brewery in Albany, New York.

And in the early 1860s a New York City directory of breweries lists four brewers that offered Burton Ale as well as “pale, golden and amber ales, porter and brown stout.” Burton Ale, and its recipe, were Britiish imports. It was a dark and sweet nut brown beer from the Burton upon Trent brewery that was a popular export to Russia, Poland and Hungary.

In the late 19th century “nut brown ale” was quite popular, especially in the mid-Atlantic states. Shortly after the turn of the century the popularity of the beer begin spreading west into Ohio, Michigan, Inidana, and Illinois.

In the first years of the 20th century a Pittsburg, Pennsylvania brewery launched a marketing campaign to ensure that the nut brown ale they produced stood out from the competion. This promotional campaign centered on the claim that this beer was in the tradition of “the ‘Nut Brown Ale of Old England.’”

Regional variations of nut brown ale in Texas, in California, and in Colorado hint of the beers growing popularity during these years. But the growth was cut short. Some states such as Arizona passed legislation that shadowed the implementation of national prohibition in 1918 when Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution that prohibited the manufcture, transportation, and sale of alchoholic beverages.

With the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the few local breweries that had survived began brewing old favorites. In New England and the mid Atlantic states that was often nut brown ale. Surprisngly many of the breweries that offered this classic revived a British tradition and made the nut brown ale a seasonal brew.

Mudshark Brewery and Public House in Lake Havasu City is a pioneer in the revival of Arizona’s craft beer microbreweries. Since 1998 we have been brewing an array of specialty beers as well as a few classics with a twist.

We recently linked our beer to another American classic, legendary Route 66. Our award winning BUZZ Honey Lager has a hint of sweetness as it is brewed with orange blossom Arizona honey. And that honey comes from Oatman, Arizona, an old mining town in the Black Mountains where Route 66 is literally the main street.

With the Route 66 centennial fast approaching perhaps we should make plans for something special to celebrate that milestone anniversary. Perhaps we should revisit an American classic, nut brown ale. And perhaps we could give that special brew an Arizona twist.

Have you ever tried a traditional American nut brown ale? What are your thoughts about celebrating the Route 66 centennial with an American classic, Mudshark style?

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America