Growler Taste Test: River Rat Brewery Hazelnut Brown Ale

The 21st Amendment of the US Constitution allows manufacture and sale of alcohol, but it leaves the regulation of the manufacture and sale to the states.  Most states in turn leave the details of enforcement up to counties.  It is possible that within one county with multiple municipalities you can have an equal number of differences in law for the sale of alcohol (when, where, and how much).  It gets confusing.

If you follow this blog to any extent you know I have spent a lot of time reading and writing about alcohol laws in the US.  It started off as studying all the beer laws and expanded to all alcohol laws.  US alcohol laws are often stuck in Prohibition era thinking.

It has taken many states a long time to change those laws in a way that helps craft brewers.  That is in part because of a continued conservative mindset towards all alcohol and in part because big beer and large wholesalers give lots of money to people running for spots in state legislatures.

South Carolina is one of the states along with North Carolina whose craft beer industry exploded with changes in the law.  North Carolina passed its Pop The Cap Law in 2005 and has seen craft brewing explode in the intervening time.  South Carolina was later to the party and did not pass laws to help craft brewers until 2013 and again in 2014.  In 2012 (according to the Brewers Association) there were 16 breweries in South Carolina.  There are now 31.

20150630_221039One of those new breweries is River Rat in Columbia.  The River Rat Hazelnut Brown Ale pours a dark reddish brown color almost like that of an old penny.  It leaves an off-white fluffy head that dissipates pretty quickly.  This is more English-style brown, making it more malt forward than most America-style browns giving the beer an aroma of chocolate, hazelnut, and bit of toast with floral and herbal hops in the background.

The beer is very easy to drink and malt forward with a nutty, hazelnut taste and low hop bitterness.  This is a beer that is meant for multiple pints or bottles over the course of the night.  It has a light feel on the tongue and low ABV making it easy to drink and very sessionable.

With this tasting, I tasted the growler and then I tasted the same beer from a bottle.  The one caveat is the growler was two days old.  There was not a significant difference in taste except that the bottle was a little brighter and more assertive.  I think that has more to do with the growler being a couple of days old.  Next time I try this, it will be with a growler less than a day old to get a better gauge.

This beer being from Columbia made my mind go immediately to Hootie and The Blowfish and all the rest of the bands that toured the Southern college music circuit back in the mid-1990s.  Here is a playlist of music from that glorious time.