Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar: Perfectly good and decent
July 26, 2012
Rogue Brewing has always been a bit of a surprising letdown for me. They are one of the breweries I feel I should love wholeheartedly. They brew good, solid beers, using great ingredients, and don't pasteurize or use chemicals. It's just good old-fashioned beer making at its best. They also brew a huge number of diverse beers, so something they have is bound to appeal to just about any beer drinker. I don't often go for crazy ingredient experiments in beer, and they certainly do their share with such things as soba, chipotle, maple bacon or, in this case, hazelnut. But, I'm not opposed to some creativity as long as the execution is right. I don't think I've ever had a Rogue I didn't like, but given the large selection and obvious craftsmanship, it's very odd I haven't yet found one that I absolutely love. Maybe I expect too much from them.
It's the same old story with their Hazelnut Brown. I like it, but I can't love it. The legend goes that this beer was inspired by a home brewing friend that decided to simply chuck some hazelnuts into his normal batch of brown ale. A perfectly good and decent idea, and Rogue's version is a perfectly good and decent beer. It might not quite be a peanut butter with chocolate kind of idea, but it's certainly a pairing that was just begging to happen.
Hazelnut Brown is a shade or two darker than many typical brown ales, but it has the same short and quick head that is common. The aroma is on the faint side, again, not rare for the style at all, and is almost all hazelnut, with only a smattering of toasted malt. This isn't a bad beer to have on the cold side, but the more you let it warm up the more the aromas and flavors will open. Before the first taste, I'm preparing for a big malt bomb, but it surprisingly, again, holds to style. There is plenty of malt, especially up front, but those hazelnuts are what are most noticeable—beginning, middle and end. If you love hazelnuts, this is definitely the beer for you. The beer is not all one–dimensional, though. There are some hints of butter, coffee and vanilla, but the nuts dominate, for better or worse. Then, there are just enough hops coming through at the finish to give it a nicely bitter bite at the end.
The flavors are soft enough that this beer will pair well with most dishes, the meatier the better. All the hazelnuts could be a very nice complement to roasted game, especially. But the obvious and best food choice of all is a meltingly hot, buttery, Nutella crepe. This is absolutely, hands-down, the perfect beer for that particular dessert. For me, this is a one-beer-and-done type, but not because it's strong or heavy. It's neither, actually; though the 6.7% alcohol level is a bit heftier than most brown ales, the feel is properly light and thin. If you're looking for a more robust, thicker and creamier beer, get a stout or, maybe, a porter. It's just that by the time I finish one of these, I've had my fill of hazelnuts for the moment, thank you.
Hazelnut Brown Nectar is another solid Rogue offering. The more you love hazelnuts, the more you'll like this beer. Those nuts aren't just hinted at here, they are front and center. It's not over the top, just nutty. Combined with the natural chocolaty flavors from the roasted malt, it is an inspired addition to what would have been an already very nice brown ale. I'm not enough of a hazelnut fan for this to be that adored Rogue beer I've been waiting for, but I'm sure that's coming. In the meantime, this is far better than any typical brown ale you'll find, as long as you're partial to the nuts.