Hmmm. A tough one. Especially since Wednesday night was Cork & Bottle's famous Grower Champagne Tasting. Ahh yes, folks, bubblies you wanna wrap your arms around and never let go. It was a tough call, but I held strong in the face of Egly-Ouriet (reeediciously good!), Pierre Gimmonet, Rene Geoffrey (Joe, you know this one buddy), and Henri Billiot. With weak knees, I took a few meager sips and charged onward to the dark lands...
Sea Dog Riverdriver Hazelnut Porter: ABV: 5.6% Well, this beer is just as straight-forward as it gets. One guess what the nose smelled like. If you didn't say hazelnut, then you CLEARLY can't read. Yep, the beer smelled like intense hazelnut coffee, like the kind my mom and sister swear by. It's a nice aroma, and one of my favorite nuts. A cream tart with a hazelnut crust? Yum. Hazelnut gelato? Double yum. Chocolate mousse with cream and hazelnuts? Yes, please. And don't get me started on Nutella....Good Lord.
As for this beer, it is reminiscent of Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar, one of my all-time favorite beers. I just love it. In limited quantity, of course. It's a similar sensation here. You would want this in one dose or less. No way putting this with appetizers or main course dishes. This is strictly a dessert kind of beer. Or in place of your after-dinner coffee. It's that strong. But only on the nose. The palate is pretty smooth and easy, but again in a dose.
The only thing that troubles me is on the front label, it says, "with natural hazelnut flavor added." What does that mean exactly? Whenever I read that on any label, food or beverage, it just sketches me out. It just sounds additivey. (again, probably NOT a word). Better just leaving it off altogether guys...
Hook Norton Double Stout: ABV: 4.8% First sensation: creamy. On the nose and palate. It's seriously like milk with chocolate and coffee added, instead of the other way around. Hmm. Very interesting, as the Green Flash Double Stout also had that milky thing going as it warmed up.(see beer #42)
There is some toastiness (I like that) and dried fruit in aroma and flavor, as well as an herb I cannot place for the life of me. But of this I am sure: when I stand in New Orleans smelling it, I am transported to North Carolina, and am standing in my Mamaw Collins' kitchen staring at the spice and herb cabinet. That sense of smell/memory thing is just downright incredible to me sometimes.
There is a bit of walnut/pecan pith on the finish, providing a touch of bitterness, but overall this is a smooth, rounded stout. American Double Stouts generally tend to be a little higher in alcohol, but this British version is a very easy 4.8%. This would be a great after-dinner treat...or if you like milky, chocolatey coffee, good morning!
Nils Oscar Imperial Stout: ABV: 7% Unsafe beer practice rule # something: Don't try to juggle a Riedel, a beer bottle, and a slice of pizza while riding to a concert. That's just dumb. Which I realized as I spilled dark, sticky Imperial Stout down my leg at least five times, while jostling the Riedel around trying to get a nose. Can't you just see that frolic. Oh, AND on New Orleans roads no less, quite possibly the most potholed, cracked, and creviced streets in the nation.
Nonetheless, this beer was delicious. What actually made it to my lips. Tons of dark, luscious chocolate and coffee on the nose. Rich aromas of baking spices and roasty, toasty, malts. Nice, round mouthfeel and a smooth finish with the right amount of bitterness.
I tell you folks, I am impressed with Nils Oscar beers. The Coffee Stout and the Imperial Stout are both very well-made, with clean, pure aromas and flavors. No confusion, no rough edges. Give them a try guys.