JW Dundee's Honey Brown Lager


Review Date 3/11/2002 Last Updated 12/5/2019 By John Staradumsky

Though I may be a Bruguru, I’m sad to say that I have not yet achieved the status of Beer God. It’s not for lack of trying, of course, and I must say I thought I came close a few years back. A few co-workers, after reading my beer column in the Yankee Brew News, got down on their knees and made worshipping notions while chanting, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” I suspect that they were more impressed that such a thing as a newspaper dealing exclusively with beer existed at all than they were with my writing skills, but it was a fun moment nonetheless.

Fun though it was, it didn’t make me a Beer God. No, there is only one Beer God (though the Sumerians, in their infinite wisdom, did have a beer goddess called Ninkasi), and he’s my idol. Literally. A small gray stone idol to be exact, clutching a bottle of JW Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager. He seems to have scampered off to parts unknown these days, but only a few years ago he was everywhere: on billboards, TV commercials, and radio spots, and of course at your local beer retailer.

Beer God was a lot of fun. OK, so he had rotten grammar. He had great commercials, and they more than made up for it. I remember one billboard sign that had the Beer God shouting at passing traffic, “You in sixty-three Impala! Pull over now, sell car, buy Honeybrown Lager!” I wonder how many six packs of Honey Brown you could get for a sixty-three Impala? Not many I suspect.

Beer God’s radio ads were even more fun. One has him arranging a “We Are the World” type musical ensemble designed to promote the Beer God’s favorite cause, Honey Brown Lager. We are advised not to drink any other beer, “Or Beer God Make You Pay!”. Another clip explains how a kindler, gentler Beer God has decided to use advertising in lieu of earthquakes and pestilence to encourage us to drink beer. Of course, we’re warned he may go back to his old ways if lots of Honey Brown Lager isn’t sold.

These are really funny clips, and I’m glad I saved them from the company’s website (you can listen to them here). Sadly, it seems High Falls Brewing has given up on the Beer God as a promotional spokesman for Honey Brown Lager. The beer itself, though, is still going strong.

High Falls Brewing Company, formerly the Genesee Brewing Company, is the nation’s fifth largest brewer and has been around since 1878. The company rolled out Honey Brown Lager in 1994, and it has become one of their most popular brands. High Falls calls it a “dark, pilsner-style beer”, whatever that is. Manitoba clover honey is added during the brewing process.

How did the beer come to bee (pun intended)? The bottle offers the following origin:

He was a fiercely independent American brewer, dedicated to creating a lager like no other. She was a Canadian, a third generation beekeeper from the plains of Manitoba. They met over a creamy pint in a brewpub on the coast of Oregon in 1993. The rest is history.

JW Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager pours to a delightfully golden brown color with a medium bodied, spritzy head formation that quickly fades after pouring. The brew has generous carbonation; a steady stream of bubbles rises from bottom to top at a vigorous pace. The nose gives an ever so faint hint of chewy caramel malt and a touch of sweetness. The palate is lighter than you’d expect but at the same time quite flavorful, there are subtle hints of husky malt and a touch of honey character. The finish is rather sweet.

This is a very drinkable brew, and a surprisingly good one. It won’t offend drinkers who regularly partake of the Bud-Miller-Coors Trinity, but it has enough flavor to satisfy a beer connoisseur. Match it with food, too; I like it with chicken or pork, even more so when they’re accompanied by rich sauces.

Try a six-pack today. The Beer God has spoken.

Update 5/28/2015: Sue me. Taco Mac had Honey Brown Lager on and I got excited. Yeah, it's not the best beer in the world, but it does have hints of caramel,  toasted and honey malts and a pleasant malty sweetness in the finish. I still love it, and at $4 for a full 20-ounce mug pour, I love it even more.

Update 12/5/2019: Chanced upon a Honey Brown Lager tap at Harrah's Valley River Casino today and enjoyed the light toasted malt flavor with hints of honey and a satisfying soft sweetness. A pretty good deal at $4.67 for a pint. Total Wine sells it for $11.99 a 12-pack in bottles, and (sometimes) $17.99 for a 30-pack. The latter is about as sweet a deal as you can find for a beer that is drinkable and flavorful and that I always enjoy.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.