Posted by: Michael | 17 January 2013

Brew Review #14: He’Brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale

Beer: He’Brew Messiah Nut Brown Ale

Brewer: Shmaltz Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA and New York, NY

Style: Nut Brown Ale*

ABV: 5.5%

Now that was an unpleasant hiatus. First my sniffer got all jacked up when I had a long cold, and then I’m fairly sure I gave myself the tiniest bit of food poisoning. I should have known that bacon isn’t supposed to be gray around the edges.

I’ve always enjoyed Shmaltz Brewing Company’s religiously-inspired beer names so I grabbed up one of their Messiah Nut Browns. It’s still pretty cold up here in the northland of Indiana – we’re supposed to have lows in the single digits soon – so a nut brown seemed appropriate.

I should say I like the bottle for this one, largely because of the massive amount of information it offers. If you’re a recipe nerd, this’ll be right up your alley:

Messiah I

You can’t see it in the photo I took, but this beer is certified kosher, too. I don’t know of many beers that do that (in fact this is the only one I know for sure does so).

I’d like to give even more background on this beer but Shmaltz’s website isn’t particularly well-designed – most of the information about their product is served up as shelf talkers or images of packaging. The point-of-sale flyer really only includes the awards the beer and brewery have won, with the exception of a mention that this beer is “a complex yet smooth blend of bold dark malts revealing hints of chocolate, coffee, and toffee paired with a lovely hop character.” More on all that below.

Here’s what we’re working with on first pour:

Messiah II

It pours a fairly generous head, about 3/4 of an inch. It receded quickly. The beer itself is a deep, rich brown – it’s got something of a reddish tint if you hold it up to the light. Pleasing to the eye, just as a nut brown ought to be.

The nose was more difficult to get my head around. I probably should have let this beer sit out a bit before I drank it and I’ll keep that in mind for future nut browns – the nose was extremely light and didn’t have much depth to it. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and chalked that up to temperature at the beginning of the tasting but wasn’t all that impressed as time went on. It’s got a typical nut brown nose of nutiness, a little roasted character, but not much else. A very light nose.

The taste of this beer has two components, and I’ll start with the one that didn’t impress me. It’s nutty but not overly so, and the roasted character that you’d associate with a nut brown is almost non-existent. That isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for me but it doesn’t bode well, either. As with the nose I hoped that time – and thus, higher temperatures – would bring me something fun. I was disappointed in that hope. To my palate this particular nut brown was very flat or one-dimensional. It did have that nutty character that you would (oddly enough) associate with a nut brown, but not a whole lot else. I kept waiting…and waiting…and waiting…for some other notes to sneak up on me. They never did. If they are indeed present, they’re far too subtle for my palate to detect.

Now about that second component. This beer is very strangely, yet pleasantly, dry. It’s got something of an astringent quality that makes it quite refreshing in terms of mouthfeel and drinkability. It’s got very little aftertaste (which isn’t a bad thing given that the taste itself wasn’t all that pleasing). Aside from mouthfeel, the fact that this beer is so dry means it would hold appeal for those who do appreciate its light nuttiness beyond the winter months that many (or I, anyway) would associate with nut browns.

Would I recommend this beer to a friend? No, probably not. There are better nut browns out there. Don’t turn it down if someone hands it to you at a party – kudos to them for going out on a limb for you and for many – but I wouldn’t spend much time seeking it out in stores.

If you want a more numbers-oriented breakdown of this beer, you can find me under maskaggs at ratebeer.com. I’ve switched away from Pintley because I got tired of not being able to find the beers I was drinking in their database and never hearing back on whether new beers were being added or not.

Don’t forget – alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but it can hurt you and those around you. Drink responsibly – buzzed driving is drunk driving, too. Enjoy your fine brews in moderation, and don’t be afraid to know when it’s time to stop or call for a driver. There’s no shame in handing your keys to someone else. As they say over at Beer Advocate – Respect Beer!

*Links to BJCP Category 23, “Specialty Beer.”

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