Friday, May 13, 2016

River Rat Hazelnut Brown Ale (8/10)

River Rat Brewery of Columbia, South Carolina, produces this Hazelnut Brown Ale.

Their web site describes the beer as "A traditional mild brown ale brewed with English malts, hops, and fresh Hazelnuts.  Malty and nutty with a mild hop presence makes this Brown Ale approachable for novice beer drinkers, but can satisfy those who like a malty dark ale."

While I bristle a bit at the "novice beer drinkers" label, that description certainly had my attention. (Just because I don't particularly like hop-forward styles doesn't make me a novice drinker any more than not eating hyper-atomic-hot buffalo wings makes someone a novice wing eater.)

Before I continue, it's important to note that as far as I know, this beer is not currently available in Columbus, Ohio.  It appears on this web site as a service to Columbus residents who find themselves in South Carolina or another place where it's available, and perhaps as an enticement to River Rat to consider expansion into Ohio.

The beer's aroma is a slightly nutty roasted malt bouquet.  It's very reminiscent of any English made brown ale you've ever tried, which is to say it does seem "approachable" by all craft beer fans.

The beer pours a nice medium brown with a head that disappears almost as quickly as it appears.  By the time I'd set the bottle down, the head was like you see in the picture - which is to say, gone.

The flavor of the beer is exceedingly well balanced between malt and hops.  You wouldn't call this a particularly malt-forward or hop-forward beer.  There is a strong roasted grain presence which brings to mind excellent brown ales from England.  The hazelnut flavor is present if you look for it, but doesn't dominate or overwhelm the beer's other flavors.  All things considered, this is an extremely well-done brown ale.  It's not trying to be an "Imperial" or "American" or hoppy ale, nor is it sweet and cloying.  It's a very easy-drinking beer.  If you could find this on Columbus shelves, I can imagine picking up a six-pack every so often to have around.

This being said, Beer Advocate reviewers have only provided three reviews for the beer as of this writing.  One gives it a 1.85 out of 5.  The others are approximately 3.5 and 4.5 out of 5.  I'm giving it an 8 out of 10 because I think it's a great example of the brown ale style and is competently brewed.

If you want to try this one for yourself, check or River Rat's web site to see where it may be found.

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