J.W. Dundee Honey Brown Lager

J.W. Dundee Honey Brown lager
J. W. Dundee’s Honey Brown lager

Mentioned this beer in an earlier review, so thought i’d better explain, expand, and expound on it. Made by J.W. Dundee, which is a sub-nameplate of Genesee Brewing that arose in the 1990’s. Dundee came out with a few other beers, but the Honey Brown Lager was the only one which really stuck, and AFAIK the only one still regularly sold today.

Name comes from the fact that they use honey in the brew, and you actually can taste it. Not so brown a beer, more amber-ish these days, i remember it being darker in the 90’s. But it still has that same taste, a rich and warm sweet, even when served cold, and though the label calls it “extra rich” i don’t know if i’d go that far, but it is definitely “regularly rich”.

Being a lager at heart, there’s a swarthy feel to the beer in the mouth, a meal beer, not a prancing dessert beer, even if it is sweet. And that’s the real rub here: Honey Brown is good because it’s honey-sweet, unexpected in a lager and pulled off well by Gen- err, Dundee. Something about being in beer makes the honey taste like dark honey, if that’s even a thing. This honey is to real honey as brown sugar is to plain sugar.

And that rub again: great taste and a fine way to shake up your beering once in a while, but just can’t drink two of these in a row. The first sip is refreshing and surprising, the rest of the gulps are heavy with a sweetness you’re glad to have. Your first Honey Brown is always great. But try and drink another one, and it suddenly tastes… less great.

Don’t misunderstand that. If you’ve never had this beer, by all means try it. You’ll love it. There’s a reason why they still make it. But if you bring a 12-pack of it to a party, there had better be 12 people there. They will all love it. But make sure nobody has seconds. After one, they’re saying “hey that was fantastic, gimme another one!” Don’t let them do it.

A second Honey Brown in a row lets the sweetness take control and you no longer taste the lager, all you taste is the sweet. Same rule with wedding cake. After you’ve been working up a sweet-tooth at the reception with a few drinks and choice of haddock, chicken french, or spag bolo, a hunk of over-frosted cake is fantastic and gives you the energy to force Aunt Regina to do the Limbo. But your second piece will only have one bite missing, and might force the rest up backwards if Aunty Reggie forgot to wear her undies.

I found this in a 24-ounce can, and as i write, am now into the second half. Sure enough, i’m a little less eager to grab the next gulp. The first half was excellent, something new and different (haven’t had a HB in a few years). But now it’s getting more towards a cloying sweet, and it feels more like a duty than a joy to finish the last 10 ounces. It’s really an unusual beer, how the contrast between your first and your second is so glaring.

So you’ve been warned, one of these every week is just right, but more often and you won’t like it. Don’t hold that against it. I’ll rate the first Honey Brown at 6.8, just be circumspect about how often you drink it, since the rating plummets fast after one beer.