Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Rogue Ales’ Hazelnut Brown Nectar certainly agreeable

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Hello, all my beer geek friends.

Hoo-boy, my annual football hangover has arrived. The overload of college bowls and NFL playoffs is like an extended New Year’s Eve. Now, I must “recover” until early September. But alas, coming soon there is NCAA March Madness and major league baseball as my aspirin. The Cubs are looking like they are starting to make good on the promise they offered a few years ago. Also, I would like to pay my respects for ol’ No. 14, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. God bless, you Ernie, we should all have your never-ending optimism and zeal for life. “Let’s play two!”

This week, I would like to feature one of my wife’s favorite beers. I like to sneak the six-pack into the house and let her notice it in our beer fridge. It is an American Brown Ale brewed by Rogue Ales, and the name is Hazelnut Brown Nectar.

Rogue Ales was founded in Ashland, Oregon, in 1988 by three Nike, Inc., executives: Jack Joyce, Rob Strasser and Bob Woodell. In 1989, the company relocated to Newport, Oregon, a coastal fishing town, after Jack visited the area at the suggestion of a partner. He met Mo Niemi, owner of Mo’s restaurant chain. Mo was well known for her clam chowder and generosity. Niemi had interest in operating a brewpub on the Newport waterfront in a property her family owned. Jack was skeptical about running a full-fledged brewery, but Niemi persuaded him to take on the venture. Niemi insisted that the company would give back to the local community. She had a saying: “[I]f you’re lucky enough not to go broke, feed the fishermen.” Although now deceased, Niemi’s legacy lives on at Rogue: her image is now featured on the Half-e-weizen bottle (originally Mo’s Ale and now MoM Ale).

Rogue’s portfolio of beers is an eye-popping 44 variations of ales, all of which (except one) are fermented with Rogue’s proprietary yeast known as Pacman. The brewery is highly decorated with awards and medals too numerous to mention here. Check it out on their website at http://www.rogue.com/.

Hazelnut Brown Nectar is one of these award-winning beers and is available year round. I am using an ordinary shaker pint glass for this review, seeing as it is an American Brown, and allowing the beer to warm to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pour is a wonderful reddish-brown color, reminiscent of cherry wood. A full two-fingered-plus depth of oatmeal-colored head rises, showing excellent retention, eventually receding to a thin layer with nice lacing. The clarity is somewhat hazy, but cannot hide the continuous stream of carbonation bubbles rising to the top.

The aroma is of toasted biscuit, hazelnut and cocoa right off the bat. A deeper smell brings out some coffee and a tinny metallic … hmmm. The combination creates a sweet, earthy presence, similar to whole-grain cereal.

The first sip offers a toasty, sweet and mild hazelnut flavor that is very inviting. I also taste some yeasty presence, similar to some dark Belgian ales that I have tried. The flavors clear nicely on the finish, with a light, crisp dryness and moderate earthy bitterness. As the beer warms, it gets a tad sweeter and no sign of alcohol warmth.

The mouth feel is medium, soft and almost fuzzy, offering some foaminess on the swirl around the mouth and an ever-so-slight coating on the tongue. The finish has some astringency, but is fairly clean.

Overall, a nice, toasty brown with good balance and subtle flavors, the hazelnut isn’t overpowering, but is prevalent in both aroma and taste. I really appreciate the restrained approach that is neither cloying nor overly sweet. What really stood out was how quickly it disappeared from my glass, keeping it flowing and extremely drinkable, rich in depth, and agreeable.

Prost!

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Rockford Brewing Company, 200 Prairie St., on the Rock River. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015, issue

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