Craig Heap reviews Hazelnut Coffee Porter, a speciality porter from Saltaire Brewery
Hazelnut Coffee Porter
Saltaire Brewery like to do big flavours carried by solid beer bases. Their Raspberry Blonde is perhaps one of my favourite beers, due in no small part to my insatiable raspberry lust. So it was no real surprise to see them do such an unsubtle concept as Hazelnut Coffee Porter. The base is fairly standard, one half made from pale malt and the other half comprised of Munich, crystal, oats and chocolate malt, hopped with classic English fuggles and goldings. Hazelnut and coffee adjuncts are then combined to make up the rest of the name.
In the glass it’s a deep, glowing red, which though fierce looking is lighter than what a porter normally comes out as. It has the typically low carbonation found in porters and a creamy head which didn’t last long in my pint mug. Sure, maybe I should drink out of a glass designed to keep head better, but I really love the dimple pint mug. It’s as British as, well, as porter.
When I get my nose past the (surprise, surprise) nutty aroma and sink my lips around the first gulp, I’m knocked right back by a big, bittersweet mouth-explosion. This quickly gives way to a dry, sweet, nutty finish. Once all the excitement winds down, the coffee arrives late for the party and leaves again before anyone really notices it even turned up. It’s a wonder the coffee made the credits at all. That said, I can’t see how the beer would be improved by more coffee – it would clash too violently with the strong, hazelnut profile. I’m left to assume its job is not so much to be tasted but to balance out the excesses of the attention grabbing hazelnut.
The hazelnut becomes cloying toward the end of the pint like too much cheap praline. I really can’t stress how nutty this is – in smell, in taste and in finish. If, like my unholy desire for raspberries, you crave nutty tastes, this is the beer for you. Otherwise, it becomes a bit tiring.
Saltaire define this as a speciality porter and sure as hell no one can argue with the speciality part, it sounds like something you might order from Starbuck’s rather than your local pub. What I have trouble with is the porter part. To me, with the lighter than expected body and colour, this is more of a nut brown ale, but porter is a slippery term with no hard and fast definition, so who am I to argue with Saltaire? Did I mention it tastes of hazelnut?