Often times in beer speak an item may carry a name that has nothing to do with what’s inside the glass. Thus is the case with the brown ale category, particularly nut brown ale. However, as everything old is new again and brewers look to innovative methods and additions to set their product apart from the herd, there’s more and more truth in advertising these days.
Originally, the style known as brown ale was brewed entirely from brown malt. This was abandoned once it was realized that pale malt such as 2-row barley, wheat and rye were all more abundant crops from which to choose. By the late 19th/early 20th centuries, there were some in merry ol’ England who missed the style and revived it using pale malt that had been toasted a little longer than that used in, say, pale ale but not as long as those for porter and stout.
As time passes and brewers tinker and experiment with combinations of malt, hops and yeast, it’s noticed that making a beer one style with recipe X turns out totally different than recipe Y. Some of the brown ale being made had a pronounced, natural nutty flavor profile.
Oddly enough it wasn’t until recent years that American brewers began to make beer that included what its name implied. Chocolate stout began to show up with real chocolate in the ingredient list and nut brown ale, surprise, did too and took off like a rocket. Regional breweries Sweetwater and Lazy Magnolia both represent the South with the inclusion of pecan in their browns while the mad scientists at Rogue looked to an Oregon crop for their inspiration.
In 1993, a friend of Rogue’s brew master added Oregon hazelnuts to his homebrew to be featured at that year’s American Homebrewers’ Association convention. Overwhelming praise led to Rogue honoring the effort with their Hazelnut Brown Nectar. With a clear golden brown appearance, much like Coke after the ice cubes have melted, this beer doesn’t keep its fluffy head for very long but that’s okay. The real show is coming next with gorgeous scents of Nutella, vanilla, caramel and straight toasted hazelnut. A seriously smooth body delivers loads of sweet malt, a touch of honey and a big finale of more roasted hazelnut. The beer is kept in check from being too cloying and sweet by a fresh dollop of floral hops.