Beer Review 0219: Samuel Adams Hazel Brown Ale

Every now and then, I like to review a beer from Samuel Adams. They make some decent stuff; unfortunately, the majority of their brews are merely average offerings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A great majority of craft beer enthusiasts cut their teeth on the Boston brewery; whether it be Boston Lager, or one of their many, many, many seasonal offerings. Typically, Samuel Adams brews offer a bunch more flavor than your typical macro lager, but are a shadow of smaller microbrew options.

Samuel Adams does produce seasonal sample packs that are cool; they do the right thing when it comes to a sample pack and put six different beers in, two of each, instead of only three each of four different beers. Now, two of those beers are always Boston Lager…but you get five different options. The bottle up for review today can only be found in the autumn 2012 sample pack — Hazel Brown Ale.

Sam Adams decided to make this beer in honor of the fall hazelnut harvest. It is a brown ale with select malts designed to impart hazelnut flavors: Two-Row Pale Malt, Caramel 60, Dingeman’s Biscuit, and Paul’s Roasted Barley. It should be noted that the bottle says this beer is brewed using NATURAL flavors, whatever that means.

Pouring produced a surprising amount of head for a Sam Adams beer; it was almost above average in size, but not quite. The head was creamy and did hang around a good while. The liquid was a deep amber color, slightly towing the line over to brown, but more like sweet tea. Body was crystal clear, with no particles or sediment, and the lacing was good, leaving behind some patchy sheets on my glass.

The aroma was indeed a hazelnut bomb; there’s a lot of malt, which adds up to mostly hazelnut, coffee, and caramel. It reminded me of one of those creamers you get out of the diary section of the grocery store. It wasn’t quite on the level of walking into a Quicke Mart and smelling those cheap flavored coffees, though; but that’s a smell I happen to enjoy. There are a couple of other things going on, too; there is a bit of herbal hop in the background and I could put my nose on Samuel Adams house yeast any day. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever smelled any hazelnut that smelled natural… hazelnut just seems artificial to me.

Tasting this beer will lead to an initial disappointment. The beer, for a brown ale, is bland, watery, and just too thin, with a caramel flavor and some grain. But the finish is where things start to come around, and when the hazelnut is dialed up. It’s sweet and really opens up long after you swallow, giving the palate some robust hazelnut, caramel, and almost a dairy-like presence. While the finish doesn’t exactly save this beer, it does have some redeeming qualities and makes it drinkable.

I’m not going to be shy with telling you what we have here: basically, this is Founders Frangelic Mountain Lite. I rated Frangelic Mountain, a heavily hyped, hard to find, expensive limited release beer 92 points. This is nowhere on that level, but I would still recommend this if you love hazelnut, or those coffee creamers that seem to take up more and more of the dairy display case in the supermarket.

Another average beer from Samuel Adams.

Samuel Adams Hazel Brown Ale, 78 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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