Celebrity chefs are nothing new to the American food scene, but over the past several years they have begun to pay more attention to beer. While I think this is good overall – especially as they begin to bring high quality craft beers into higher class establishments traditionally reserved for wine and liquor – it has also resulted in the permeation of their brands into the beer market.
The poster child for this is Morimoto’s collaboration with Rogue Brewing Company, which has brought at least four different beers under the Morimoto name to Philadelphia. According to Rogue’s website, three of these beers were brewed specifically for Morimoto (Soba Ale, Black Obi and Imperial Pilsner), while the fourth is simply a rebottling of Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar under the name Morimoto Hazelnut Brown. This fourth beer was the only one of the series in stock at the Foodery, so I decided to give it a chance.
Rogue Brewery opened in October 1988 as a brewpub in Ashland, Ore., by Jack Joyce, Bob Woodell and Rob Strasser. The company struggled at first and decided that if they were going to succeed they needed to expand beyond Ashland. Mohave Niemi, director of the Port of Newport, convinced Joyce to open up their second brewpub in a vacant storefront, which she rented to them on two conditions: that the brewery give back to the community once they were established, and that they always display a picture of her naked in a bathtub in the bar (and they still do, even after her death).
Masaharu Morimoto came to the United States in 1985 after operating a restaurant in Japan and quickly established himself in New York City. While working at an esteemed Japanese restaurant named Nobu, he gained fame from the TV show Iron Chef. In 2001, he opened his eponymous restaurant here in Philadelphia and he began working with Rogue to develop beers in 2005. This was a perfect fit for both parties, as Morimoto’s expertise is with fusion food styles and Rogue has always designed their beers to be consumed with food.
The Hazelnut Brown pours a clear, dark brown, which appears a golden red when held up to a light. The head forms as only half a finger of coarse, light coffee colored foam, which dissipates in less than two minutes. There is a ring of foam left around the glass and the beer leaves a little bit of lacing as it is drunk, but overall the head disappears surprisingly quickly. The aroma is dominated by a roasted coffee scent, but some sweet malt and hazelnut notes serve to add a much-needed complexity. The body is moderately thin, but the carbonation is quite odd. It is very fine and sharp, but not sparkly at all. This is a very interesting sensation that I don’t often experience in beer, and serves as a nice counterpoint to many of the highly carbonated, almost champagne-like beers I’ve had recently.
Overall the body is quite creamy, but does not linger; I found this quite impressive, as most beers I’ve had with any significant body at all seem to coat my mouth and linger for several minutes afterwards. The initial taste for this beer is of sweet malt, but that is quickly displaced by a roasted malt, almost like a good stout, in the middle of the taste. The big finish for this beer is a massive hazelnut taste, which also leaves a very dry impression behind.
Overall, I thought the beer was fairly well balanced, although the amount of hazelnut in the finish was a bit of overkill. The beer went down quite easily, but the strong hazelnut character means that I’ll reserve this beer for interesting food pairings, rather than an every day beer.
Price: $5.99/22 oz