Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hazelnut Brown Nectar

This one has been sitting in my fridge for a bit. Not because of trepidation, or intimidation, but rather expectation. Not to suggest that I thought this would be the Holy Grail of beers, per se, but I found it very tempting to work into some sort of food pairing. That, and there's a certain connection to the season that I felt the beer could possibly have, and I was excited about that.
Well, I never got around to developing any sort of pairing (soon!), and it's a Saturday evening and it remained sealed which is clearly a situation that needed to be remedied.

Even here in Southern California, Fall has taken grip on the weather and I like to adjust my beer tastes accordingly. Back home, Fall meant a yard full of leaves, and a quickly encroaching briskness that I find myself missing. Here, there's a completely different version, but it still resonates as fall: thick dampness and gray fog that hangs heavy above everything with a foreboding that somehow falls just short of being dreary.

Regardless of coast, though, the feel has an affect on food and beer habits. If I wander into a coffee shop (or rather, when; where as beer might be my favorite addiction, coffee is more socially acceptable to chug immediately after waking up), I find myself now needing some other flavor in there. It's more subtle than Christmastime, perhaps, when I shrug off the extravagance of an eggnog latte with a mirthful "Hey, it's the Holidays!", but still, something else needs to be in there. Hazelnut is one of my go-tos for that.

Which is why this sounded interesting:

Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Brown Ale. Undetermined ABV (seems somewhat formidable)
Rogue Brewing Company, Newport Oregon
22 oz bottle (I shared, dammit)

Rogue calls it a "nutty twist to a traditional brown ale," and it delivers soundly on that promise. It sports a sweet, creamy head (I supposed if I'm going to reach any level of professionalism I'm going to have to learn to not giggle at that sort of thing, huh?), a medium body and a great deep amber color, and most certainly a great nut-like flavor. Bummer is that it's not particularly the hazelnut flavor that shines.

The hazelnut flavor, which you get a hint of at first sip, along a pleasingly tame bitterness, comes from "hazelnut extract," according to the label. I appreciate the subtlety of flavors, of course, but I wish they had pushed it a bit more here. As someone has only recently come unto the wonders of hazelnut (I was deterred for years by an anti-hazelnut mother. After years of assuming that it was disgusting, an accidental encounter with a Rocher candy proved that my mom was perfectly incorrect about the humble little hazelnut), I see the potential for a great flavoring agent of beer. Rogue has hinted at it, without embracing it as much as I wanted them to.

Still, Rogue's Nectar - an interesting an fun descriptor, by the way - is a great sipping beer that stands well as a fun Autumn brew. Chill it, but don't allow it to get "ice cold," but go ahead and give it a try. It's a great beer, even if the hazelnut aspect doesn't shine as I would have hoped.

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