Rockin' around the hazelnut tree
A Review of Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
Posted on 11/20/2014 by Chops
I recently started sampling my way through a very interesting series of beers. Most craft beer fans are familiar with the concept of beer-food pairings. Many of us have even attended special beer-food pairing events. That being said, the Flying Dog Brewing Company out of Frederick, Maryland has taken this concept to the next level. They teamed up with Baltimore-based Otterbein's Bakery to develop holiday-themed brews to be paired with artisan cookies. Go ahead, read that last sentence again and try not to drool on yourself.

My first experience with this series was pairing the Flying Dog Imperial Hefeweizen with Otterbein's sugar cookies. I was truly surprised at how well it played out, which had me eager to move on to another pairing. For the next one, I selected their Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, which is paired with ginger cookies. Seriously, how awesome does that sound?

In the glass, this beer had a deep brown coloration with a slight reddish hue. It came with a rocky tan head that had really nice retention. On the nose, I was greeted by a very complex aroma of candied malts, caramel, brown bread, earthy notes, woody notes, roasted nuts and a whiff of chocolate. Wow, my nostrils were not expecting that much nuance. I spent a lot of time studying this aroma, which was rich and enticing.

That first sip was simply delightful. This beer's flavor and body were surprisingly well balanced. Usually you expect some lopsided flavors from complex aromas, but not so here. I would say that the primary themes were woody and nutty, but all individual notes played very well together. All of the aromatic characters translated as flavor notes. Sweet malts, caramel, dark bread, roasted nuts (with an obvious emphasis on hazelnut), light chocolate, the works. The hop profile was muted to the point of being a non-player, which isn't uncommon for malt-heavy Scotch Ales. The alcohol presence was surprisingly light, which allowed the primary flavor notes to shine unhindered. The beer had a solid medium body and felt smooth on the palate to start. The middle ground was earthy and gritty, then finished dry with a malty bitter aftertaste.

Scotch Ales (let alone barrel-aged versions) have very direct and powerful flavors, so I was a bit skeptical going into a cookie pairing. But I have to admit, the ginger cookies added one hell of a zesty punch. The best way I can describe it is to imagine a hop profile replaced with tangy spices. It was a really smart pairing because strong flavors need equally strong counterweights. Ginger certainly fits that bill and went a long ways in spicing up the malty sweetness. The resulting flavor was a lovely dance of sweet and spicy.

Overall, I found Flying Dog's Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale to be a savory nutty delight. I especially enjoyed the marriage of sweet malts and hazelnut, which is a strong flavor pairing. This brew's rich flavors and high accessibility make it a win for any and all beer fans. And if by change you can get your hands on some of Otterbein's ginger cookies, then you have a match made in beer heaven. I really enjoyed this experience and tip my drinking hat to Flying Dog and Otterbein for such a delicious concept. More please!

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Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
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